Two countries, four institutions with a common aim – to advance research on infectious diseases that affect West Africa and to strengthen the training of local health professionals.
On May 19, 2022, a multiparty agreement was signed in Conakry between the Guinean Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene, the Guinean Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation, CERFIG, Inserm, the IRD, and the ANRS | Emerging Infectious Diseases. Representatives from these ministries, the CERFIG and the three French Institutes will sit on the scientific and strategic committees of the new institution.
PRISME has three main objectives – to develop research projects, to strengthen training in clinical research, and to reinforce the human, technical and scientific capabilities of the CERFIG. The platform will also promote better dialog and interconnection between the ANRS | Emerging Infectious Diseases partner sites in Africa.
“PRISME works first and foremost for the co-construction of research projects between researchers from both countries, Guinea and France, in response to a challenge – to meet together and progress towards the mobilization of common resources. PRISME will thus strengthen diagnostic capabilities in relation to infectious disease with epidemic potential with the support of the CERFIG laboratory,” Abdoulaye Touré, Director of the CERFIG.
This international research platform aims to ensure the continued long-term collaboration projects initiated during the Ebola virus epidemic in 2014. At the time, a task force was mobilized to offer assistance to the three countries most affected by Ebola hemorrhagic fever (Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone). For example, a biological and clinical follow-up program for survivors was conducted with the IRD and INSERM over a period of three years. “It documented for the first time the after-effects that can persist even four or five years after an individual has contracted the virus, and involved about 800 patients (out of a total of 1,230 survivors in Guinea),” said Abdoulaye Touré, Director of the CERFIG.
This collaboration with French institutes has provided useful and unpublished factual information on the virus. In particular, it revealed that the virus can survive in certain body fluids, up to two years in semen for example. At the same time, another large-scale project on Ebola virus vaccine trials is being conducted in partnership with Inserm.
Ebola has caused the death of more than 2,500 people in Guinea, with a total of 11,300 deaths in West Africa. “66% of those infected died,” said Mr. Touré. “At the time it took authorities about five months to realize that it was an Ebola outbreak. In 2021, however, when an outbreak of the virus emerged in the village of N’Zéreékoré, the alert was given within 24 hours and the diagnosis was made. Sequencing was also done on site for the first time and the epidemic was contained. PRISME will strengthen this type of capacity.”
Other research projects are also underway, on Lassa hemorrhagic fever or on Covid-19 for example.
The platform will be located on the CERFIG premises and will be supported by the human resources and administration of the Center. “The projects will be initiated in the framework of Prisme and implemented by the CERFIG,” Abdoulaye Touré said.
It will also support master’s and doctoral level training at the Gamal Nasser University in Conakry.