Thomas Jefferson University (TJU), the Institute Pasteur, the Organization of International Visitors of the USA (OIV-USA) and Thermo Fisher Scientific have formed a collaborative training program designed to pre-emptively combat the potential threat of an Ebola virus epidemic in Ivory Coast. The partnership includes training of a visiting scientist who will learn to screen samples for the deadly pathogen using advanced qPCR instruments before returning to West Africa to train others in the field.
The four-week training program will take place in the lab of Matthias Schnell, Ph.D., Professor, Microbiology and Immunology at TJU, whose research team is developing an Ebola virus vaccine that is expected to move into clinical trials in mid-2015. The collaboration also provides StepOnePlus Real-Time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) molecular screening instruments at TJU and in West Africa, where a training center will be established in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. While initial training focuses on Ebola screening, there is potential to expand the program to include other pathogens relevant to the region, including Malaria and Lassa and Dengue fever.
“The Ebola outbreak and loss of life associated with it has affected many families, devastated the social structure and seriously compromised the regional economy and education system,” said Mohamed Cisse, president of OIV-USA. “OIV-USA is very proud to facilitate this project between Thomas Jefferson University and Thermo Fisher Scientific. The government of Cote d’Ivoire also welcomes this program and is willing to lead its expansion to the neighboring West African countries.”
To date, the Ebola epidemic has led to more than 8,370 deaths across four West African countries since March 2014. Screening patient samples to identify, quarantine and treat those who test positive for the virus has been critical to slow its spread in Africa and elsewhere around the world. Fourteen cases have been identified outside of Western Africa as a result of these efforts.
“My training has significant effect as it will improve our molecular testing quality and the implementation of new methods for surveillance and research,” said Solange Ngazoa Kakou, Ph.D., head of Molecular Biology Platform, Pasteur Institute in Abidjan. “The collaboration with TJU scientists will help our training of medical scientist in West Africa and efforts in hemorrhagic virus control."
“It is important to provide the countries of West Africa with the proper resources and training to help them combat this outbreak,” said Schnell. “With the generous support of R&D leaders Junko Stevens, Ph.D., and Jonathan Wang, Ph.D., from Thermo Fisher, we have been able to move quickly to get the appropriate state-of-the-art equipment for the training center.”
Thermo Fisher’s Applied Biosystems qPCR instruments are widely used in public health laboratories around the world for clinical research applications. Most recently, they have been used in labs to screen for the Ebola virus worldwide. They also proved critical to help identify the pathogens and screen samples during the H1N1 and MERS outbreaks in 2009 and 2012, respectively.
“Preventative steps like those being taken through this collaborative training program are critical to eventually put an end to this epidemic,” said Dan Didier, Head of Public Health, Thermo Fisher Scientific. “As we’ve seen with past outbreaks, this flexible molecular technology can play a key role in identifying and screening samples for many other pathogens affecting human health in the West African region.”
The StepOnePlus Real-Time PCR System is For Research Use only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.