Sebastião Afonso Viana Macedo Neves, governor of the State of Acre, and Alain Mérieux, president of Mérieux Foundation, are inaugurating the Charles Mérieux Center for Infectious Disease and its Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory at the Fundhacre Hospital in Rio Branco. The 400 m2 center, which includes 245 m2 of laboratories, was built through a partnership between the State of Acre, Fundhacre Hospital, the NGO SOS Amazonia, the University of Salvador de Bahia and Mérieux Foundation.
The center will perform 3 vital missions:
- Service: providing patients with quality diagnosis for improved care.
- Training: contributing to training students in clinical biology and infectious diseases.
- Research: conducting projects that address public health issues in Brazil, especially hepatitis.
The creation of the Charles Mérieux Center for Infectious Disease and Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory is an important milestone in the fight against viral hepatitis, a major public health problem in the Amazon, which affects thousands of patients. The center will provide training for laboratory personnel and enable the development of fundamental and clinical research in the region. The Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory will also perform routine testing as well as infectious disease surveillance for research programs. It has the only high biosafety level laboratory (BSL3) in the region, three biosafety level 2 (BSL2) laboratories and rooms dedicated to techniques such as molecular biology.
The Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory of Brazil joins a network of seven other Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratories on three continents (Mali, Cambodia, Laos, Haiti, Madagascar, Lebanon and Bangladesh). Built at the center of infectious disease hotspots in developing countries, these laboratories meet the most demanding international standards and play a key role in disease surveillance, applied research and training in all of the regions where they have been established.
Mérieux Foundation in Brazil
In 1974, when Dr. Charles Mérieux, founder and president of Mérieux Foundation, heard of the meningitis A outbreak raging in Brazil, he travelled to Brasilia to meet with the Minister of Health, Paulo Almeida Machado. Following this meeting, Mérieux Foundation and Institut Mérieux (today Sanofi Pasteur) joined forces to stop the epidemic. His son, Alain Mérieux, president of Institut Mérieux at that time, decided to urgently build a new vaccine production unit, which made it possible, in 1975, to vaccinate the entire population of Brazil with 103 million meningitis vaccines. An actual airlift was established between Lyon and major Brazilian cities to deploy the largest public health operation that had ever been carried out.
The new Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory of Rio Branco will belong to a research network initiated by Mérieux Foundation in 2008: GABRIEL (Global Approach to Biological Research, Infectious diseases and Epidemics in Low-income countries). This network brings together close to 20 public and private laboratories in developed and developing countries. These laboratories work jointly on research projects on infectious diseases with a significant impact on public health. Brazil has two other institutions belonging to the network: the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and the Laboratório Nacional de Computação Científica. In Brazil, the GABRIEL members work, in particular, on a surveillance program for cases of severe flu and participate in an epidemiological study to identify the pathogens that cause severe pneumonia in children under five.