April 19, 2016 | Rio Branco (Brazil)
Fondation Mérieux provides the 1st high-level, BSL-3 lab in the Amazon, along with a training and research center.
Sebastião Afonso Viana Macedo Neves, governor of the State of Acre, and Alain Mérieux, president of Fondation Mérieux, are inaugurating the Charles Mérieux Infectiology Center and its Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory at the Fundhacre Hospital in Rio Branco. The 400 square meter center, which includes 245 square meters of laboratories, was built through a partnership between the State of Acre, Fundhacre Hospital, the NGO SOS Amazonia, the University of Salvador de Bahia and Fondation Mérieux.
The center will perform three vital missions:
- Service: providing patients with quality diagnosis for improved care.
- Training: contributing to training students in clinical biology and infectious diseases.
- Research: conducting projects that address public health issues in Brazil, especially hepatitis.
The creation of the Charles Mérieux Infectiology Center and Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory is an important milestone in the fight against viral hepatitis, a major public health problem in the Amazon, which affects thousands of patients. The center will provide training for laboratory personnel and enable the development of fundamental and clinical research in the region. The Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory will also perform routine testing as well as infectious disease surveillance for research programs. It has the only high-level biosafety laboratory (BSL-3) in the region, three biosafety level 2 (BSL-2) laboratories and rooms dedicated to techniques such as molecular biology.
The Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory of Brazil joins a network of seven other Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratories on three continents (Mali, Cambodia, Laos, Haiti, Madagascar, Lebanon and Bangladesh). Built at the center of infectious disease hotspots in developing countries, these laboratories meet the most demanding international standards and play a key role in disease surveillance, applied research and training in all of the regions where they have been established.
Fondation Mérieux in Brazil
In 1974, when Dr. Charles Mérieux, founder and president of Fondation Mérieux, heard of the meningitis A outbreak raging in Brazil, he travelled to Brasília to meet with the Minister of Health, Paulo Almeida Machado. Following this meeting, Fondation Mérieux and Institut Mérieux (today Sanofi Pasteur) joined forces to stop the epidemic. His son, Alain Mérieux, president of Institut Mérieux at that time, decided to urgently build a new vaccine production unit, which made it possible, in 1975, to vaccinate the entire population of Brazil with 103 million meningitis vaccines. An actual airlift was established between Lyon and major Brazilian cities to deploy the largest public health operation that had ever been carried out.
The new Rodolphe Mérieux Laboratory of Rio Branco will belong to a research network initiated by Fondation Mérieux in 2008: GABRIEL (Global Approach to Biological Research, Infectious diseases and Epidemics in Low-income countries). This network brings together close to 20 public and private laboratories in developed and developing countries. These laboratories work jointly on research projects on infectious diseases with a significant impact on public health. Brazil has two other institutions belonging to the network: the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and the Laboratório Nacional de Computação Científica. In Brazil, the GABRIEL members work in particular on a surveillance program for cases of severe flu and participate in an epidemiological study to identify the pathogens that cause severe pneumonia in children under five.