With over 125 years’ experience with infectious diseases, the Institut Pasteur and the Institut Pasteur International Network (IPIN), which is composed of 33 research institutes in 26 countries and five continents, are ideally positioned to respond to outbreaks of emerging and re-emerging pathogens.
Institut Pasteur is dedicated to developing rapid responses to infectious disease outbreaks in order to minimise their impact, improving preparedness and advancing research projects in order to better understand pathogen emergence, and their impact in human populations.
MERS-CoV is a zoonotic virus that transmits between infected dromedary camels to humans. To date, there have been more than 1600 cases reported to the World Health Organization. Dr Maria Van Kerkhove is a technical consultant for WHO as a member of the MERS-CoV task force and serves as an advisor to WHO for MERS-CoV. She has worked with WHO to routinely analyze available data from countries and conduct risk assessments, and regularly participates on outbreak-related Missions and to affected member states, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Republic of Korea, Jordan, and Qatar. The aim of her work to support local authorities in the response of infectious disease outbreaks and rapidly translate scientific knowledge into public health policy and action.
Professor Malik Peiris is a clinical and public health virologist with a particular interest in emerging virus disease at the animal-human interface including influenza, coronaviruses and others. His current research encompasses the pathogenesis, innate immune responses, transmission, ecology and epidemiology of human and animal (poultry, swine, wild birds) influenza viruses. His research has provided understanding on the emergence and pathogenesis of the 2009 pandemic H1N1 virus and on avian influenza viruses H5N1, H9N2 and H7N9. His collaborative research has provided evidence-based options for the control of these viruses in poultry and in humans. In 2003, he played a key role in the discovery that a novel coronavirus was the cause of SARS, its diagnosis and pathogenesis. Currently he is researching the recently emerged MERS coronavirus.
See here for more information about Pasteur’s work in MERS-CoV.
On 1 February 2016, the World Health Organization, at the recommendation of an emergency committee set up for Zika (including the Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Arboviruses and Viral Haemorrhagic Fevers, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Senegal Amadou Sall), announced that the outbreak of Zika and the potential link to severe neurologic complications in Latin America and French Polynesia constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
Institut Pasteur, with its long history of working on arborviruses in Paris and throughout the world through its international network, has mobilized forces against Zika. Under the leadership of Christian Brechot and coordination of Maria Van Kerkhove, Institut Pasteur is working with affected countries to rapidly develop molecular and serologic diagnostics, develop a vaccine and provide guidance on vector control options. The Institut is also supporting epidemiologic studies to better understand neurologic outcomes among pregnant women with Zika in French Polynesia and Latin America.
See here for more information about what Institut Pasteur is doing on Zika.
From early March 2014, the Institut Pasteur and the Institut Pasteur International Network assisted the international aid effort by offering diagnostic support and epidemiological surveillance in collaboration with the Guinean Ministry of Health. Throughout the 2014-2016 outbreak, the Institut Pasteur teams including teams from Institut Pasteur Paris and Institut Pasteur Dakar WHO Collaborating Center for Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers and Arboviruses were closely involved in the Ebola response. During the outbreak Institut Pasteur formed an Ebola task force under the leadership of Kathleen Victoir and Felix Rey.
From identification of the Ebola virus in Guinea in March 2014 to the plans for a new Institut Pasteur in Conakry, which is due to open in 2016, several Institut Pasteur structures have been on the front line in the fight against the virus.
See here for more information about what Institut Pasteur has been doing on Ebola.
The Institut Pasteur’s response to the threat of chikungunya back in 2005 is a prime example of the swift, effective action of its scientists. At the peak of the epidemic, in 2006, the Institut Pasteur in Paris launched a vast research program on the chikungunya virus involving a dozen teams coordinated by Felix Rey, Head of the Virology Department. They developed diagnostic tests in record time, traced the evolutionary history of the virus, sequenced the genomes of several viral strains, and identified the origins of the epidemic. The scientists also developed an animal model of the disease, designed a vaccine candidate, and identified the human cells targeted by the virus and the genes capable of controlling infection. Other research pinpointed the virulence factors of the virus and shed light on the transmission methods used by Aedes albopictus.
Around ten teams are still focusing their research on chikungunya. The Flavivirus-Host Molecular Interactions Unit, directed by Philippe Desprès, is particularly looking at the mechanisms used by the chikungunya virus to escape the host cell’s antiviral defense mechanisms. The unit is involved in the KerARBO project that was funded by the French National Research Agency in 2012 and is coordinated by the Development Research Institute (IRD) in Montpellier. The aim of this project is to understand the replication mechanisms of the chikungunya virus on the skin, where it is actually inoculated into humans by mosquitoes, and to develop innovative antiviral strategies. In cooperation with the Institut Pasteur’s Laboratory for Urgent Response to Biological Threats, the unit has also developed a novel technological platform for research into the prevalence of chikungunya in populations in endemic regions. This process has been patented. The Viral Genomics and Vaccination Unit (led by Frédéric Tangy) in collaboration with the Flavivirus-Host Molecular Interactions Unit has developed a vaccine candidate against Chikungunya based on the use of pediatric measles vaccine. A phase I clinical trials on this candidate vaccine measles-chikungunya is planned soon by the austrian biotech company THEMIS Biosciences, based in Vienna.
Recently, several Institut Pasteur teams, coordinated by Antoine Gessain, have joined forces in the DEVA Transversal Research Program, which has led to the development of a molecular diagnostic tool for chikungunya, dengue, and West Nile virus at the Institut Pasteur’s Paris campus. The tool uses a DNA microarray to analyze serum or blood samples and diagnose acute viral infection. The microarray can also characterize the genome of the virus or viruses in the infected test sample.
See here for more information about what Institut Pasteur has been doing on Chikungunya.
The Institut Pasteur International Network have proven surveillance and technical capacities in preparing for and responding to infectious disease outbreaks: Chikungunya, Dengue, Ebola, Enterovirus 71, Hepatitis E, Influenza, MERS-CoV, Rift Valley Fever, Yellow fever, etc. This expertise and experience are reflected by the large number of IPIN institutes that are National, Regional or OIE Reference Centers or Collaborating Centers for the World Health Organization. In addition, a number of IPIN institutes are involved in initiatives such as MediLabSecure – a collaboration across countries of the Mediterranean and Black Sea region to identify emerging viruses that are pathogens for humans and/or animals.
The Institut Pasteur has a long history of educating and training scientists, medical practitioners and public health professionals both in Paris and throughout the Institut Pasteur International Network through undergraduate, Master’s and doctoral programmes strongly anchored in national educational systems. This is complemented by specific fellowship, post doc and early career placements within the IPIN institutes designed to further professional scientific development. International collaborative projects have provided support to train African scientists for the detection of haemorrhagic fever viruses in 8 countries, as well as to set up surveillance systems for respiratory viruses.
The Institut Pasteur is also launching a new educational initiative in Africa: the Pan-African Coalition for Training (PACT) in Research and Public Health. This multi-country, multi-partner initiative builds on the existing educational and training activities of the Institut Pasteur International Network and, in collaboration with national African universities, research institutes, organisations and with the private sector, looks to provide dynamic biomedical and public health research and training in Africa.
More information on the education and training opportunities through the IPIN can be found here.
Standardized research protocols
Using standardized research protocols offers the possibility to rapidly implement clinical research, to compare results across regions and countries and can potentially improve the quality of observational studies, by identifying and minimising biases, and thus of public health recommendations.
The Institut Pasteur, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the networks of Fiocruz, the Consortium for the Standardization of Influenza Seroepidemiology (CONSISE), the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC) and many other international research groups have generated standardized clinical and epidemiological research protocols and questionnaires to address key public health questions related to Zika virus infection.
A summary of the process of standardization can be found here.
The six standardized protocols can be found here.
CONSISE, in collaboration with the Institut Pasteur, is in the process of developing seven standardized research protocols for influenza.
CONSISE members and WHO, in collaboration with the Institut Pasteur, have developed four standardized research protocols for MERS-CoV.
The Institut Pasteur and the Institut Pasteur International Network has a number of ongoing clinical research, epidemiological research, mathematical modelling and downstream research including medical interventions and vaccine development related to recent infectious disease outbreaks: