Fondation Merieux

A family foundation dedicated to fighting infectious diseases

Health Systems and Ebola

Health Systems and Ebola

A training course held in Guinea

Fondation Mérieux is contributing to the fight against the Ebola epidemic by working to strengthen West African healthcare systems through the RESAOLAB* program, supported by Agence Française de Développement (AFD), Fondation Mérieux, International Cooperation of Monaco, Islamic Development Bank, and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

This initiative is emblematic of Fondation Mérieux’s network-based approach to fighting infectious disease.

The Ebola epidemic has highlighted the need to strengthen health systems in West African countries and, in particular, their capacities in the area of clinical diagnostics. The laboratory plays an essential (and often little-known) role in disease outbreaks. It is paramount to reduce the time to identification of pathogens and potential infection hotbeds so that necessary prevention measures can be taken to contain the epidemic and protect the population.

The following factors have contributed to the severity of the Ebola epidemic:

  • The lack of appropriately equipped infrastructures and healthcare personnel trained in the handling of dangerous pathogens.

  • Too long a delay before the Ebola virus responsible for the epidemic could be identified in an appropriate laboratory (P4 Jean Mérieux-Inserm), giving the virus opportunity to spread.

  • Information given too late to implement prevention measures (patient quarantine and isolation of bodies after death) and protect healthcare workers (it is estimated that 5-10% of deaths are among healthcare workers).

  • A regional laboratory network that is not yet entirely operational:

    • lack of a laboratory directorate in some countries,

    • need for communication between the region’s laboratories,

    • need for investments to provide access to quality diagnosis of tropical infectious disease,

    • lack of a procedure for sample transport.

  • A lack of personal protective equipment, for which there is currently a worldwide shortage.

Dr. Aboubacar Sidiki Diakité (president of the National Health Crisis Committee of Guinea and president of Guinea’s National RESAOLAB Committee) presented these difficulties during the meeting of RESAOLAB members last May.

The Ebola epidemic was officially confirmed in March 2014 by the French National Reference Center on Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers, directed by Sylvain Baize of Institut Pasteur, based in Lyon at the P4 Jean Mérieux–Inserm laboratory. Since then, RESAOLAB member countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) have been working together to coordinate their actions and implement concerted prevention measures.

*RESAOLAB: Réseau d’Afrique de l’Ouest des Laboratoires d’Analyses Biologiques (West African network of biomedical analysis laboratories)