Gorilla Doctors Team Talks Infectious Diseases in DubaiBy Gorilla Doctors Staff on Thursday, February 11th, 2016 in Blog.
By Kirsten Gilardi and Mike Cranfield
Last week, Gorilla Doctors team members travelled to Dubai (United Arab Emirates) to attend a global meeting for the PREDICT Project, which conducts global surveillance to detect and prevent pathogens of pandemic potential that can move between wildlife and people.
Gorilla Doctors has been an implementing partner for the PREDICT project in Uganda, Rwanda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2009. Team leads for PREDICT Kirsten Gilardi and Mike Cranfield were joined in Dubai by Gorilla Doctors’ head veterinarians Benard Ssebide, Julius Nziza and Eddy Kambale, who serve as coordinators for PREDICT in their respective countries. Joining Gorilla Doctors were close partners Denis Byarugaba and Julius Lutwama, from the Makerere University Walter Reed Project in Uganda, and Ivan Emil from the National Reference Laboratory at the Rwanda Biomedical Center.
The objective of the global PREDICT project is to strengthen global capacity for detection and discovery of zoonotic viruses with pandemic potential. During the first phase of PREDICT, from 2009 to 2014, PREDICT humanely collected biological samples from more than 56,000 wild animals worldwide (primarily bats, primates and rodents), and detected more than 800 new viruses in wildlife that could pose a zoonotic threat to people. New information gained through the PREDICT project can be viewed on HealthMap.
The 5-year PREDICT project, now operating in more than 30 countries, will expand surveillance to also include behavioral assessments and biological sampling of people who come in to close contact with wildlife, in order to better understand how viruses carried by wildlife can be transmitted to people. The ultimate goal is to mitigate that risk and prevent pandemics.
“The PREDICT all-country meeting is a great opportunity to meet, interact and learn first-hand from the global team about their experiences and lessons that can be adopted in the individual countries,” said Dr. Benard Ssebide of Gorilla Doctors.
The meeting in Dubai brought together all of the partners and staff implementing PREDICT-2 surveillance around the world, to set the stage for intensive field work over the next three years.
“I got to meet with Prime Mulembakani and Corina Monagin from Metabiota for the first time in Dubai,” said Dr. Eddy Kambale. “We had never met physically; only through emails. The lectures helped me better understand how PREDICT operates in other countries.”
Gorilla Doctors is an enthusiastic partner in this major endeavor, not only because of the information being generated that could help safeguard the health of people who live in close contact with wildlife, but also because it has helped build capacity in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC for laboratory-based diagnostics for pathogens that could pose a threat to gorillas, too.