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Launch of West African Viral Surveillance Network

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  • Launch of West African Viral Surveillance Network


    Launch of West African Viral Surveillance Network
    8 Dec 2008
    Paul Chinnock

    Source: International Consortium on Anti-Virals (see original article) PDF

    A new surveillance network has been launched that will facilitate collaboration in the fight against viral diseases across West Africa.

    The launch took place in November during the 7th International Symposium, of the International Consortium on Anti-Virals (ICAV), held in Beijing where representatives of institutions and government agencies from West Africa, Europe, Australia, China and Canada signed a memorandum of understanding inaugurating the West African Viral Surveillance Network (WAVS). WAVS builds on discussions that took place at the Abuja, Nigeria ICAV Symposium of May 2007 and subsequent roundtable discussions with stakeholders.

    ‘WAVS will help us fill the gaps in our surveillance infrastructure’, said Dr Mike Ochoga, who coordinates Nigeria’s Avian Influenza Rapid Response Team.

    Viral diseases infect about five million people a year in West Africa, impeding poverty reduction and sustainable development. The eradication of high-burden viral disease is integral to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations. Viral surveillance capacity in West Africa – the key to reducing prevalence of viral infection – remains weak. In addition to ongoing polio, Lassa, and West Nile epidemics, the highly pathogenic avian influenza virus H5N1 has recently become endemic in many countries in the region.

    The UN has, therefore, identified West Africa as a priority region for surveillance strengthening. Increased surveillance provides information essential to rapid and effective disease management and control, the implementation of effective prevention, treatment, prophylaxis and vaccine deployment strategies, and design of new therapeutic leads.

    ICAV’s Africa Regional Director, Dr Oyekanmi Nash said, ‘The surveillance gaps that the network had identified include those on sample collection and referral systems, viral identification and analysis, and collaboration and coordination. WAVS addresses these gaps through focused activities with the identified regional and international collaborative scientists, institutions and organizations.’

    Professor Bamidele Solomon, Director-General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency of the Nigerian Federal Government, hailed the establishment of WAVS as, ‘A big step forward in strengthening existing linkages both inside and outside the country for something of great importance.’

    The WAVS Network will bridge the gap between existing surveillance systems in the region. ‘The existing polio surveillance network is very effective’, according to Professor Festus Adu of the WHO Polio Laboratory at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria: ‘WAVS will aid in the transition of such networks to other diseases once we have reached our goal of polio eradication.’

    The International Consortium on Anti-Virals (ICAV)

    ICAV is at the centre of pandemic preparedness and global public health, developing urgently needed, low-cost anti-virals. A not-for-profit drug development organization, ICAV accelerates the discovery, development and delivery of novel anti-viral therapies for neglected and emerging diseases through the international collaboration of scientists, government and industry. ICAV harvests promising drug candidates for pre-clinical and clinical development from its international network of over 250 scientists from 24 countries. ICAV ensures global availability of anti-virals by offering therapies at cost or free in lower- and middle-income countries.

    The ICAV 7th International Symposium ‘Challenging Pandemics: Science, Policy Preparedness’

    Organized in conjunction with the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the symposium gathered over 100 scientists, public health experts, industry representatives, and policymakers to advance the development of safe, affordable and effective anti-viral therapeutics for infectious diseases. The key objectives of the symposium are to identify promising new anti-viral development candidates and to foster new collaborations to accelerate the development of new therapeutics. The symposium featured sessions on avian influenza, hepatitis, dengue, enteroviruses, and traditional strategies for drug development.