On November 25th, Cristina Muñoz, project manager of IGORCADIA, presented to ISGlobal students and researchers the key results and lessons of the project, aimed at strengthening capacities to diagnose infectious diseases in Liberia. The project, funded by EDCTP, was led by ISGlobal, an institution supported by “la Caixa”, in collaboration with the Saint Joseph Catholic Hospital de Monrovia and the Fundación Juan Ciudad.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia revealed the need for rapid and reliable tests to diagnose different infectious diseases endemic to the region and with epidemic potential. “Our experience in Liberia started with SELeCT, a project to strengthen laboratory capacities at the Saint Joseph Hospital after the Ebola outbreak. It was then that we noticed the lack of capacity to regulate the use and development of diagnostic tests in the country,” explains Alfredo Mayor, ISGlobal researcher and prinicipal investigator of the project.
“When IGORCADIA started, there was no regulation for diagnostic tests in the country,” says Muñoz. “Now, after two years of work, the Liberian regulatory authority for medicines and diagnostic tests has a regulatory framework under international standards.”
In addition to strengthening regulatory capacities, the project conducted a series of activities to train local staff in the use of diagnostic tests for infectious diseases. The activities included a practical exercise comparing the efficacy of different tests to diagnose malaria, a disease that continues to wreak havoc in the country. “In contrast to neighbouring countries, malaria mortality in Liberia has increased by 20% over the last decade,” explains Muñoz. The project also conducted interviews to assess the community’s acceptability regarding the storage of biological samples (or biobanking). Rumours, fears and mistrust were the main obstacle for people giving blood samples. “It would greatly help if the research results reached the communities that participated in the research. At the end, it’s all about trust,” says Muñoz.
Project partners also worked to establish or strengthen synergies between local, national and regional stakeholders. “However,” concludes Muñoz, “giving continuity to these efforts will require further funding and greater involvement of public authorities, in a country where the lack of investment in health is overwhelming.”