UWC’s SANBI fights Ebola
West African countries such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia were hard hit with socioeconomic disruptions due to the major loss of life caused by the Ebola Virus. The virus brought about widespread devastation and the death of 3 590 people in Sierra Leone. The early symptoms of infection are fever, sore throat, muscular pain, and headaches. These are followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rashes and decreased liver and kidney function.
UWC’s South African Bioinformatics Institute is leading research with the aim of increasing the capacity in West Africa at national, district, and community levels to respond to Ebola outbreaks more effectively. To address the containment of the virus,the Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (GET) was established in 2014 as a direct response to the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak and ongoing outbreaks of Lassa Fever, Meningitis, Multidrug resistant (MDR) enteric fevers and Yellow Fever across the sub-region.GET represents an African-led multidisciplinary forum of experts capable of working together with international partners to strengthen Africa’s preparedness and resilience in tackling these infectious diseases caused by emerging pathogens – pathogens which can lead to public health emergencies and pandemics.
After three years spent successfully drafting and vetting a national biobank governance framework, combined with cataloguing all Ebola samples, Sierra Leone embarked on a data management and LIMS strategy that will match their research vision for the national asset of Ebola biospecimens. Funding was secured to host a workshop on a data management design strategy and laboratory information management (LIMS) usage.
A team from SANBI recently ran a workshop in Sierra Leone on sample and data management best practices. The SANBI team was hosted by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the Office of the National Security in Sierra Leone. As a member of the GET consortium, Professor Christoffels, the Director of SANBI, led a team which included Peter van Heusden (bioinformatician and researcher), Hocine Bendou (Software developer and PhD graduate), Eugene de Beste and Jamie Southgate (MSc student).