PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University’s Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health is launching a new Center for Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (CREID) that will be based in Nairobi, Kenya.
The new research center, part of WSU’s Global Health – Kenya program, will have the capacity to address infectious disease outbreaks in eastern and central Africa (ECA) and have an immediate impact to save lives.
The Center is made possible by $7.6 million in funding over five years from the United States’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“As the world population has now experienced with the spread of COVID-19, the global health community urgently needs more regional and in-country capacity to mitigate disease outbreaks and find faster interventions. The CREID-ECA is positioned well to do just that,” said Guy Palmer, senior director of WSU Global Health and chair of the Kenya program. “Utilizing our partnerships with the University of Nairobi and Kenya Medical Research Institute gives us an excellent starting platform.” As the regional hub for communication and international partnerships, Kenya is an excellent location for the new Center.
East and central Africa are global hotspots for emerging infectious diseases, as demonstrated by the recurrent outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola, Marburg, and Rift Valley fever. In addition to detecting these diseases, the Center will look for viruses festering at low levels among animals and the environment in the region, and also work to rapidly detect diseases emerging elsewhere such as highly pathogenic influenza, Zika and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
“The CREID will support response to outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases like COVID-19 by conducting timely studies to characterize new pathogens and develop diagnostic reagents, as well as supporting clinical and socio-cultural research that will lead to implementation of more effective prevention and control measures,” stated Kariuki Njenga, who will direct the Center.
In partnership with Emory University, Washington University at St. Louis, Charité-Universitätsmedizin in Berlin, Germany, and the Institute of Tropical Medicine-Antwerp, Belgium, the CREID will address significant knowledge gaps in current research regarding what drives disease emergence, while considering high human density, diversity of wildlife species, and forest vegetation as key factors in occurrence of EIDs.
“Over 80% of the land in the region is remote with poor physical and public health infrastructure. Greater than 35% of human illnesses go undetected, making it particularly ideal for new pathogens to emerge and spread undetected for long periods,” Njenga added. Partnering in the ECA region with the Kenya Medical Research Institute, Uganda Virus Research Institute in Uganda, Sokoine University in Tanzania, and Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (Democratic Republic of Congo), the CREID will maintain study sites in strategic locations designed to detect possible emerging viruses before they spread and cause widespread infections.
WSU Global Health – Kenya will build upon its long-established partnerships with agencies that coordinate human and animal outbreak responses in the region, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). These partnerships are critically important to addressing infectious diseases like COVID-19.
The CREID in Nairobi will be funded under grant number U01AI151799. The award is one of 11 grants including a coordinating center made by NIAID to establish a network of Centers around the globe where emerging and re-emerging infectious disease outbreaks are likely to occur. Multidisciplinary teams of investigators in the program will conduct pathogen/host surveillance, study pathogen transmission, pathogenesis and immunologic responses in the host, and will develop reagents and diagnostic assays for improved detection for important emerging pathogens and their vectors. Visit the CREID website for more information.