China is planning to set up overseas centers for pathogens and tropical infectious diseases in Africa to improve international collaboration and to practice a preemptive strategy of epidemic control, according to a senior public health official.
The Ebola epidemic is expected to be reined in by June with enough personnel and constant intervention efforts, Gao Fu, deputy director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said after returning to China last month from a two-month Ebola deployment in worst-hit Sierra Leone.
“China should learn from developed countries setting up their own permanent research centers in Africa, particularly for special pathogens like Ebola, under a preemptive strategy for epidemic control,” he said.
“We would have our own high safety-level labs and research capacity where such epidemics started. That surely helps China’s own research and capability in epidemic response.”
To help curb the deadly virus, the Chinese government has sent hundreds of clinical and public health experts to Africa.
To date, more than 18, 100 people have been infected and more than 6,500 have died in West Africa since the epidemic began a year ago. China has reported no cases.
“The experience in Ebola research and clinical treatment our health workers have acquired in the affected countries help China shape and sharpen its own epidemic response capacity,” he said, noting for example that China did not even have a research lab for the Ebola virus.
“We’d never used the domestically developed testing reagent to screen a real, living Ebola virus until we arrived in Africa to fight the epidemic,” said Qian Jun, head of China’s mobile Ebola testing lab in Sierra Leone.
Since it was put into use in late September, China’s mobile lab and testing tools have proved highly sensitive and accurate for Ebola detection, he said.
Gao said, “Such efforts should stay in China’s future research centers in Africa as a heritage of the joint fight against Ebola, given infectious diseases know no national borders.”
In recognition of this, the Institut Pasteur in France has a global network comprising 32 institutes, he said. The institute is a private, nonprofit foundation, whose mission is to help prevent and treat diseases, mainly those of infectious origin, through research and public health initiatives.
Gao said basic research into common tropical infections like dengue, yellow fever and malaria can be conducted in the lab, but being at the site of the outbreaks is required to understand how to contain them.