Fondation Mérieux is working to strengthen capacities for diagnosing hemorrhagic fevers in West Africa through several initiatives:
Analyzing suspected Ebola specimens at the P4 Jean Mérieux-Inserm laboratory
Fondation Mérieux is helping affected countries that are unable to perform diagnostic testing locally. The foundation initiated a system to rapidly test potential Ebola specimens at the P4 Jean Mérieux-Inserm laboratory in Lyon. It was in this laboratory that the Ebola virus responsible for the epidemic was first confirmed and characterized by Institut Pasteur Lyon in late March, 2014.
The system was established with RESAOLAB* member countries, Institut Pasteur and Inserm.
Through RESAOLAB, Fondation Mérieux has offered secure sample kits with user guides to West African countries: the RESAOLAB countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) as well as Cameroun and Guinea-Bissau.
Transportation to the P4 Jean Mérieux laboratory is pre-paid by Fondation Mérieux.
A secure system for shipping the samples, coordinated by Bioport, enables countries to test samples quickly and reassure the public when a new case is suspected.
Several countries have already benefited from this system. To date, all of the samples have tested negative.
Providing expertise in West Africa
Prof. Dominique Peyramond, member of Fondation Mérieux’s board of directors and a specialist in infectious and tropical disease at the Croix Rousse hospital (Lyon, France) and Dr. Aboubacar Sidiki Diakité, president of the National Health Crisis Committee of Guinea and president of Guinea’s National RESAOLAB Committee, ran a workshop on Ebola in Burkina Faso as part of the Clinical Biology Days held in Ouagadougou, July 21-23.
Following an assessment visit last May, the virologist Dr. Joseph Fair has been conducting a mission for Fondation Mérieux since August, focused on strengthening diagnostic capacities for Ebola in Sierra Leone. Dr. Fair has been at the Kenema hospital since the beginning of the outbreak and advises the Minister of Health of Sierra Leone.
At the request of the Guinean Minister of Health, experts specialized in working in biosecurity level 4 labs (BSL4) have been sent to Guinea to train local biologists.
Dr. Jean-Louis Machuron, RESAOLAB program coordinator arrived in Guinea at the end of August to advise the Ministry of Health and its National Health Crisis Committee and conduct training programs. He was joined by Dr. Christophe Peyrefitte, a virologist specialized in hemorrhagic fevers who works with the P4 Jean Mérieux-Inserm laboratory.
The training courses and audit of the equipment and practices of laboratories involved in the response to the epidemic began in September.
Training in biosecurity and hemorrhagic fevers
At the start of the epidemic, Fondation Mérieux and its RESAOLAB partners developed training courses adapted to the crisis.
Since the beginning of July, courses are being deployed in the RESAOLAB network.
hemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola,
logistics of managing samples,
specific techniques for handling samples,
destruction or conservation of samples,
prevention measures and protecting laboratory personnel/
Over 500 laboratory professionals have already received training in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. Training courses for trainers have been held in Togo, Niger and in Guinea.
International scientific partnerships to increase testing capacities
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed September 12th with Institut Pasteur for the development of joint projects to address the Ebola epidemic and other hemorrhagic fevers.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed September 18th with the Chinese CDC, Inserm and Institut Pasteur for cooperation in the field of prevention and control of highly pathogenic infectious diseases (such as Ebola virus).
Fondation Mérieux is among a group of partners, including the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infections Consortium (ISARIC), the University of Oxford, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the World Health Organization (WHO), Institut Pasteur, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, and the Global Health Network, brought together to establish clinical trials at Ebola treatment centers in Africa through a Wellcome Trust grant.
*RESAOLAB: Réseau d’Afrique de l’Ouest des Laboratoires d’Analyses Biologiques (West African network of biomedical analysis laboratories)