Three interconnected projects MedilabSecure, MediPIET and STRONGLABS take into account the effects of climate change on infectious diseases, the migration of potential vectors and the alert capacity of laboratories and institutions in charge of field epidemiology to prevent epidemics of new types. They strengthen the capacities of partner countries in terms of awareness, risk assessment, monitoring and control of these vector borne diseases.
These three projects also prepare scientists (human and veterinary virologists, entomologists, medical staff, field epidemiologist, laboratory technicians, ...) to analyze the major risks accordingly. By reinforcing an international network of laboratories (human virology, animal virology, entomology) and public health institutions, the three Projects have clearly contributed to prepare the partner countries to face the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and accordingly has been easily and immediately reoriented towards a new concrete action plan.
The main mission of the MediLabSecure European project is to enhance preparedness to emerging viral diseases in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Sahel Regions. As One-health project clustering virologists and veterinarian virologists along with medical entomologists, public and animal health representatives and modellers, the usual target of the project are vector-borne viruses such as arboviruses. However, public health emergencies due to a novel virus, in particular of zoonotic origins such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus, are part of its missions.
MediLabSecure has been directly involved in the Covid-19 pandemic preparedness from the beginning in January 2020 through active communication, discussions, diagnostic tools sharing and technical support towards Covid-19 reference laboratories members of the network, in order for them to better anticipate and start initiating active preparedness and coordinated response to Covid-19 at national level. In particular, early during the crisis, National reference laboratories requesting support in diagnostic implementation have been provided with first kits for SARS- CoV-2 in order to accelerate their preparation. Thanks to MediLabSecure support, the actual first cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection have been identified by national reference laboratories members of the network in Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco, Republic of North Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Jordan, Palestine, and Mauritania.
MediPIET I, II, III has reinforced the regional network of field epidemiologists by providing systematic training sessions/courses and long-term fellowships. Thanks to close links established by this project, these epidemiologists are easily mobilised in case of cross-border outbreaks and other health threats. MediPIET organised in February 2020 a specific COVID-19 module for senior epidemiologists with the participation of MediLabSecure. Stronger epidemiological capacities developed through the successive previous training phases are very useful to ensure preparedness for fighting the COVID-19 outbreak.
STRONGLABS strengthened the capacities of Tajikistan’s national public health laboratory, a reference laboratory for COVID-19 testing , in order to produce reliable test results. Last February, STRONGLABS supported an advanced training on laboratory quality management systems in Kyrgyzstan, with staff involved in COVID-19 testing.