Mérieux Foundation delegation visits partners and programs in Bangladesh

December 6, 2018 - Bangladesh


In November 2018, Mr. Alain Mérieux, Dr. Robert Sebbag, a Mérieux Foundation Board member, and Prof. Hubert Endtz, director of Applied Research at the foundation travelled to Bangladesh. Their visit provided an opportunity to take stock of initiatives developed by the foundation and our partners to increase access to diagnostics, strengthen research capacities and improve the living conditions of vulnerable populations.

Mérieux Foundation delegation visits partners and programs in Bangladesh

Providing adequate healthcare for people living in this country requires addressing health challenges created by the ongoing humanitarian crisis and the burden of infectious diseases
such as respiratory infections and typhoid fever – both of which are the focus of recent research projects initiated by the foundation.

Improving the living conditions of vulnerable populations with Friendship

During their mission, Runa Khan, Founder and Executive Director of the NGO Friendship, took the delegation to visit the Friendship Hospital in Shyamnagar, where they participated in an opening ceremony for the Child & Women Pathology Lab, equipped by the Mérieux Foundation.

The Shyanmagar Hospital is an example of our work with the Bangladeshi NGO Friendship. We started with building the diagnostic capacities of hospital ships and mobile clinics by equipping labs and providing training in isolated areas of Bangladesh in 2014. Since 2017, our collaboration has expanded to address basic needs and answer important research questions raised by the alarming situation of Rohingya refugees.

Inaugurating new facilities for ideSHi

A new extension was inaugurated at the Institute for Developing Science and Health Initiatives (ideSHi) in Dhaka. The Mérieux Foundation delegation joined ideSHi’s Executive Director, Dr. Firdausi Qadri, Prof. Dr. Abul Kalam Azad, Director General of Health Services for Bangladesh, and Mrs. Marie-Annick Bourdin, French Ambassador to Bangladesh, for the ceremony. Dr. Qadri is winner of the 2012 Christophe Mérieux Prize, awarded each year by the Institut de France on behalf of Fondation Christophe et Rodolphe Mérieux. The new facilities, which are specialized in advanced testing for genetic disorders and infectious diseases, were built with the prize money.

Applying research results in the field

Applying research results in the field

The Mérieux Foundation delegation also visited Ukhiya Rohingya Camp in Cox’s Bazar and clinical study sites in the Rohingya refugee camp in Kutupalong. One million Rohingya people have fled their homeland in Myanmar and are living in settlement camps.

Due to population density, malnutrition, inadequate vaccination and poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, they are highly vulnerable to infectious diseases such as pneumonia – especially the children, who make up nearly 60% of the Rohingya refugee population.

Two major research projects at the Mérieux Foundation involve these study sites. The first study is on acute respiratory infections, which are the main cause of morbidity and mortality among Rohingya populations in the camps. The study launched in 2018 to assess the cause of these often severe respiratory infections will also assess the feasibility and impact of rapid point of care diagnostic tests to identify the pathogens that cause the disease. The study will help to determine the most appropriate healthcare interventions, including vaccination, to improve patient care and reduce the use of antibiotics. The second research project led by the Mérieux Foundation in Bangladesh focuses on drug-resistant strains of the bacteria that cause typhoid fever. Its results were recently published in the journal mBio (Tanmoy et al.) and provided alarming proof of the emergence of a multisource epidemic of highly drug-resistant Salmonella Typhi and the need to accelerate vaccination programs.

The Mérieux Foundation delegation ended their mission with a visit of the Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory at the Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases (BITID) in Chittagong. They saw the recent developments in the diagnostics laboratory, including a new biosafety level 3 unit, and learned about the current research projects. The Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory is a partner of the study of respiratory infections among Rohingya refugees. The delegation also visited a recent extension of the clinical wards at BITID.

The Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory of Chittagong

The Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory of Chittagong opened its doors in 2015. This center of excellence in applied research, training and laboratory diagnostics is just 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of the Rohingya refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar. Located in the Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Diseases (BITID), the laboratory focuses on tuberculosis and typhoid fever research. It was built with financial support from Fondation Christophe et Rodolphe Mérieux.