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US health institute sets up centres to battle novel viruses


Centres of excellence will research emerging pathogens in Africa and elsewhere

The United States’ National Institutes of Health has established centres of excellence to research emerging disease-causing viruses in Africa and elsewhere.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases announced the Centers for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID) on 27 August. The 10 centres and coordinating hub will involve scientists from 29 countries and will get US$82 million over five years. Seven of the centres will have an African focus.

Each centre will target specific known viruses. However, the centres are set up so they can research any new infectious pathogen that might emerge, dubbed “pathogen X”.

“The CREID network will enable early warnings of emerging diseases wherever they occur, which will be critical to rapid responses. The knowledge gained through this research will increase our preparedness for future outbreaks,“ said Anthony Fauci, NIAID director, in a statement.

CREID East and Central Africa will focus on Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS) and Rift Valley fever virus. It will be led by Kenya-based researchers M. Kariuki Njenga from Washington State University’s Kenya-based global health programme and Robert Breiman from Emory University. It will also involve researchers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.

CREID: Epidemiology, Surveillance, Pathogenesis has Feyesa Regassa from the Ethiopian Public Health Institute as one of the lead investigators. It will focus on MERS and SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.

The EpiCenter for Emerging Infectious Disease Intelligence will feature Ugandan partners and focus on arbovirus, coronaviruses, and filoviruses.

The Pasteur International Centre for Research on Emerging Infectious Diseases will focus on Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever virus, dengue virus, and Rift Valley fever virus. African researchers affiliated to the Pasteur Institute in Cameroon and Senegal are among the lead researchers.

The United World Antiviral Research Network will examine arboviruses and SARS-Cov-2. Research organisations in Senegal and South Africa will partner in the project.

The West African Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases will involve a variety of partners based in West Africa, with participants in Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone. It will focus on problem viruses in the region including those responsible for yellow fever, Zika, dengue and Ebola.

The West African Emerging Infectious Disease Research Centre will focus on Lassa virus and SARS-CoV-2. African partners are based in Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sierra Leone.