ZikaPLAN aims to address the Zika virus outbreak and the many research and public health challenges it poses.










The Mérieux Foundation is one of 25 research and public health organizations from Latin America, North America, Africa, Asia, and Europe that are members of the ZikaPLAN (Zika Preparedness Latin American Network) project.

The severity of the outbreak and the mutation of the virus have led to a great number of, as yet, unanswered research questions. The main difference between the Zika virus and other arboviruses is its effect on the nervous system, both through an immediate infection, causing microcephalus and other disorders, and through autoimmune diseases such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

This unprecedented Zika outbreak has also highlighted the need to build research and epidemic response capacities in some of the regions where the virus struck. Understanding the threat of this disease and the subsequent necessary and rapid implementation of measures to combat it, proved impossible, as the research infrastructure simply did not exist.

ZikaPLAN receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 734584.


  • Addressing the urgent research knowledge gaps and needs in the current Zika outbreak to better understand the disease, prevent its spread and engage with the affected populations;
  • Building a sustainable preparedness and response capacity in Latin America for Zika and other emerging infectious diseases


Direction and organisation

ZikaPLAN is coordinated by an Executive Board comprised of:

  • Annelies Wilder-Smith, as Director, from the University of Umeå, Sweden;
  • Eduardo Massad, as Deputy Director, from the Fundação de Apoio à Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil;
  • And 15 Work Packages leaders from partner organizations, one of which is led by Mérieux Foundation.

The initiative is taking a comprehensive approach to the issue, bringing together the various disciplines involved in fighting the disease – epidemiological surveillance, clinical trials, development of diagnostic tools and control strategies, training and knowledge-sharing activities.

The role of the Mérieux Foundation : diagnosis and communication

As a member of the ZikaPLAN consortium, the Mérieux Foundation is involved in the innovation and Zika diagnostic tools evaluation platform led by Professor Rosanna Peeling of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medecine. The Mérieux Foundation is developing two prototypes: one to detect the virus and the other to measure the serological response (immunoglobulins M/immunoglobulins G) of the patient after the infection with the virus.

The Foundation helped organize a practical workshop in Brazil on diagnostic tests developed by ZikaPLAN and provided to trainers from different countries to enable a wide diffusion of these techniques. To support this initiative, an e-learning module on diagnostic tools will be created. The Foundation is also in charge of communicating and disseminating the project’s research results.


As for the test for the detection of the Zika virus, the Mérieux Foundation has developed several prototypes with different combinations of antibodies. The Foundation obtains analytical sensitivities by using a NS1 recombining antigen, which simulates the presence of the virus between 0.15 and 0.6 ng/ml, depending on the antibody combinations used. An evaluation of its performance on cultivated virus strain and patient samples is in progress, in collaboration with the Pasteur Institute of Dakar, Senegal.

Regarding the test prototype for the detection of immunoglobulins M (IgM) and immunoglobulins G (IgG)and, its evaluation shows similar performance levels to the best ELISA tests commercialized or developed by well-known institutions, such as the US CDC for instance. The Foundation is currently investigating whether this prototype is susceptible to cross-reactions with other Flaviviruses, including dengue virus, and to what extent.

These Zika virus and IgM/IgG detection prototypes are available to be tested on a larger number of patient samples by members of the ZIkaPLAN consortium, with the aim of assessing more precisely the sensitivity and specificity of these tests.


Operational (members of the ZikaPLAN consortium):

  • Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine, Belgium
  • Associação Técnica–Científica de Estudo Colaborativo Latino Americano de Malformações Congênitas, Brazil
  • Erasmus Universitair Medisch Centrum Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • Fondation Mérieux, France
  • Fundação de Apoio à Universidade of São Paulo, Brazil
  • Fundação Oswaldo Fiocruz, Brazil
  • Fundación Universidad del Norte, Colombia
  • Institut Pasteur of Dakar, Senegal
  • Institut Pasteur, France
  • Instituto Butantan, Brazil
  • Instituto de Medicina Tropical Pedro Kourí, Cuba
  • International Vaccine Institute, South Korea
  • Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium
  • La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, USA
  • London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom
  • Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom
  • Schweizerisches Tropen- und Public Health-Institut, Switzerland
  • The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  • The University of Liverpool, United Kingdom;
  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA
  • Ulster University, United Kingdom
  • Umeå University, Sweden
  • Universidad del Valle, Colombia
  • Universidade de Pernambuco, Brazil
  • University of Glasgow, United Kingdom


ZikaPLAN receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 734584.

Find out more about ZikaPLAN on its website

Visit the Twitter account of ZikaPLAN