11th Meeting of the GABRIEL Scientific Network and special session on COVID-19
The 11th GABRIEL network meeting was held at Les Pensières Center for Global Health from November 7 to 10, 2021. Organized by the Mérieux Foundation with the support of bioMérieux, this international conference brings together about 80 participants from 15 countries every 18 months, to present and exchange on the results of collaborative research studies and design new projects.
These meetings make it possible to measure the impact of the GABRIEL network: what it brings in terms of health, scientific innovation, aid to populations and career opportunities for young scientists in the developing world.
One of the objectives of the 11th GABRIEL network meeting was to allow most GABRIEL members to present their research projects on respiratory infections, tuberculosis, and antimicrobial resistance.
Focus on COVID-19
Chaired by Dr. Firdausi Gadri (Director of the Center for Vaccine Science at icddrb, Bangladesh) and Prof. Philippe Vanhems (Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Hospices Civils de Lyon, France), a large part of the first day was focused on the epidemic that has disrupted all health systems worldwide. Discussions focused on the evolution of COVID-19 in 2022 and the characteristics of the pandemic in Haiti. A session was also dedicated to the surveillance and analysis of COVID-19 variants within the GABRIEL network, with the general objective of exploiting and strengthening the capacities of network members.
Acute respiratory infections
Dr. Valentina Picot, Head of Public Health Initiatives at the Mérieux Foundation, presented the program concerning acute respiratory infections and pneumonia, the central theme of activities and interventions in the fight against ARI. A stepwise approach is needed to determine appropriate responses to monitor and control ARI and pneumonia through research and capacity building. The overall goal is to establish an integrated approach to reduce the incidence of severe pneumonia, particularly in children. This objective can be achieved by addressing public health issues and promoting practical advances. The primary target populations are children under five, people living in low- and middle-income countries, and those in crisis settings such as refugee camps. Research and targeted interventions aim to improve the lives of vulnerable people.
Dr. Jean-Yves Madec (Director of Research at Anses, France) and Dr. Luc Samison (Director of the Charles Mérieux Center for Infectious Disease in Madagascar) identified the convergences and cooperation on antimicrobial resistance within the network. The meeting allowed to think on future common projects and to develop the OneHealth approach.
Dr. Florence Pradel, Head of the Mérieux Foundation’s GABRIEL Network, described the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), related to the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in humans, animals and agricultural practices, as well as the spread of AMR genes in the environment and the transmission of AMR from animals to humans through direct contact or the environment.
The meeting then focused on tuberculosis: a presentation on biomarkers and screening in childhood TB was given by the IRD (Institut de recherche pour le développement). Dr. Jonathan Hoffmann, Head of the Tuberculosis Unit at the Mérieux Foundation, spoke about the challenges of improving TB diagnosis and management through local laboratory capacity building and operational research.
Young scientist award
As in each edition, young researchers presented their work. This year, five young people were selected to receive the “Young researchers” prize, which aims to support young scientists from developing countries in the implementation of their research project and to allow them to present their work in international conferences.
This year, the prize was awarded to the following scientists:
- Tiavina Rasolofoarison (Charles Mérieux Center for Infectious Disease in Madagascar) for the evaluation and monitoring of the prevalence of extended spectrum beta-lactamase-producing E. coli. Samples were collected from four water sources in the Antananarive area, from chickens sold in various local markets, and from project results obtained in other participating countries. The findings of the study will be used for the AMR surveillance system in collaboration with Madagascar’s Ministry of Public Health ;
- Rim Bayaa (the Laboratoire Microbiologie, Santé et Environnement in Lebanon) for the evaluation of RISK6, a 6-gene blood transcriptomic signature for tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment monitoring. His study showed the urgent need to develop diagnostics and approaches other than sputum to monitor response to TB treatment.
“We need to work together to establish new partnerships with international players, strengthen the network capacities & raise additional funds for diagnostics and research activities implemented by GABRIEL members” concluded Dr. Bonneville, Scientific & Medical Director at the Mérieux Foundation.
About the GABRIEL network
The GABRIEL network was created by the Mérieux Foundation in 2008 and now has 20 member laboratories in 16 countries. The network includes Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratories, local reference laboratories, as well as academic, university and hospital research institutes. This international scientific network works in synergy to develop the research and training capacities of local laboratories and improve surveillance of diseases with a major impact on public health in developing countries.