Glossary

  • Chloroplast DNA

    constitutes the chloroplast genome: transmitted only by mothers, very little variation over time, makes it possible to track maternal lineages

  • Mitochondrial DNA

    constitutes the mitochondrial genome: transmitted only by mothers, very little variation over time, makes it possible to track maternal lineages

  • Apoptosis

    ability to induce programmed cell death

  • Blood-brain barrier Barrier (BBB)

    barrier between the peripheral blood and central nervous system

  • Endothelial cell

    specialized cell that is part of the composition of blood vessels

  • NK cells

    class of immune cells with a cytotoxic function

  • Chloroplasts

    cellular compartments in plants responsible for photosynthesis. Transmitted only by mothers.

  • Cytoadherence

    ability to adhere to cells, particularly endothelial cells

  • Epitope

    immunogenic protein fragment

  • Phylogenetic Study

    Development study of the genetic evolution of a living being (micro-organism, plant, animal)

  • Hepatocyte

    specialized liver cells

  • Hepatoma

    malignant liver tissue cell

  • Isolate

    a parasite strain isolated from the field

  • Deep microvascular beds

    small blood vessels in the deep tissues, in particular the brain

  • Mitochondria

    cellular structures in animals, responsible for energy synthesis. Transmitted only by mothers.

  • Pathogenicity

    ability to induce disease

  • PBMC

    peripheral blood mononuclear cells

  • Phenotypic

    related to the structure

  • Phylogeography

    analysis that also takes into account the geographical distribution of the lines studied

  • Primatology

    study of the species of the order of primates

  • Primatologist

    someone who specializes in the science of primates.

  • CTL response

    cytotoxic immune response

  • Reservoir

    animal species that hosts a pathogen over a long period

  • Trypanosomiasis

    sleeping sickness

Emerging Viral Diseases Unit

The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit of the CIRMF primarily studies the emerging viruses responsible for hemorrhagic fever syndrome. This field focuses on viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers such as filoviruses (Ebola and Marburg) and Crimean-Congo fever, and viruses responsible for a febrile syndrome accompanied by polyarthralgia. These viruses are usually transmitted by arthropod vectors (arboviruses) and include several viral families such as the Flaviviridae (yellow fever, dengue fever, West Nile), the Bunyaviridae (Rift Valley fever) and the Togaviridae (chikungunya). The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit studies the virological, immunological and epidemiological aspects of all these viruses.

History


The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit began working on Ebola in 1996 when Gabon was hit by a 2nd epidemic. Given the increasing number of outbreaks and at the request of the Ministry of Health of Gabon,  in 1999 the CIRMF created a research unit specifically dedicated to this disease, the Emerging Viral Diseases Unit. The unit started with 4 people and now employs 16 scientists. Initially focused on Ebola, its activities were gradually extended to other viral hemorrhagic fevers and arboviruses prevalent in Central Africa.  In 1998, the CIRMF acquired a BSL-4 glovebox to be able to safely handle highly pathogenic agents such as Ebola. The laboratory has set off a work area where diagnostic activities and research can be carried out according to the safety standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Organization


The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit is organized within a partnership between four institutions: the CIRMF, the Ministry of Health of Gabon, the Research Institute for Development and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Cooperation).

Our Staff


The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit consists of 20 people and is organized within a partnership between three institutions:

CIRMF: 2 researchers, 4 PhD students, 2 Masters students and 2 technicians

The IRD and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs: 5 researchers and 2 PhD students

The Ministry of Health of Gabon: 1 epidemiologist.

 

Head of Unit : Eric LEROY

HDR (Accreditation to supervise research), University Paris 6, 2006

Doctor of Science in Immunology (University Paris 6, France, 2000), Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (Maisons-Alfort, France, 1993).

Head of the Emerging Viral Diseases Unit since 2001

Director of research at IRD in the UMR 224 (MIVEGEC) IRD/CNRS/UM1 (Montpellier)

Chercheurs

BECQUART Pierre

2007-

Researcher, IRD (PhD)
Head of immunology programs
Main activity: Ebola Immunity
Secondary activity: Chikungunya / Dengue Immunity

GRARD

Gilda

2007-

Research Fellow, (PhD)
Head of virology programs
Main activity: Ebola Genomics
Secondary activity: Research and characterization of arboviruses

NKOGHE Dieudonné

2007-

Medical Epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health of Gabon & CIRMF (MD)
Head of epidemiology programs
Main Activity: Epidemiology of emerging viral diseases
Secondary activity: Epidemic control

POURRUT Xavier

2005-

Researcher, IRD (DVM, PhD)
Head of programs related to the natural cycles of virus
Main activity: Natural cycle of arboviruses
Secondary activity: Natural cycle of filoviruses (Ebola, Marburg)

Doctoral Students

CARON

Mélanie

2009-

PhD student, CIRMF, 2nd year, University of Marseille (EPHE Diploma)
Thesis: Detection and characterization of arboviruses

KASSA KASSA Fabrice

2008-

PhD student in Medicine, University of Health Sciences Libreville (MD)
Thesis: Identification and incidence of arboviruses in Gabon

LEKANA DOUKI

Sonia

2010-

PhD student, 1st year, University of Montpellier 2
Thesis: Viral Etiology of diarrhoeal and respiratory syndromes.

MAGANGA Gaël

2008-

PhD student, CIRMF, 2nd year, University of Montpellier
Thesis: Detection, identification and characterization of RNA viruses potentially pathogenic to humans in populations of bats in tropical African rainforests

MOSNIER Emilie

2010

Resident, Faculty of Medicine of Marseille (R)
Thesis:

 

 

MVE ONDO Bertrand

2009-

PhD student University Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, veterinary medicine, 2nd year
Thesis: Detection, identification and characterization of viruses in wild animals hosts

PETITDEMANGECaroline

2010-

PhD student MRE, Paris 6, 1st year
Thesis: Chikungunya Immunity

WAUQUIER

Nadia

2007-2010

PhD student ANR, Paris 6, 4th year
Thesis: Ebola Immunity

 

Masters Students

EBANG ELLA

Ghislain

2010

Master II, USTM
Main Activity: Detection, identification and characterization of RNA viruses potentially pathogenic to humans in populations of bats in African rainforests

MBOUI ONDO

Statiana

2009

Master II, University Antilles-Guyana
Main Activity: Detection, identification and characterization of arboviruses pathogenic to humans in Gabon

MONBO

Illich

2010

Master II USTM
Main activity: Detection and characterization of arboviruses

 

Ingénieurs de recherche et techniciens de laboratoire

DELICAT André

Assistant Engineer

ENGANDJA Philippe

Technician

 

RESOURCES


External financial contributions

The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit has always been careful to seek external funding for its research activities. Funding obtained in recent years includes grants from the European Community, from the Priority Solidarity Fund of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from the French National Research Agency and from the Albertine Amissa Bongo Foundation, Total-Gabon and the IRD. 

ACTIVITIES


Research

The research conducted by the Emerging Viral Diseases Unit has contributed significantly to improving knowledge about hemorrhagic fevers and has led to several major discoveries.
• Contribution to the knowledge of Ebola virus: diagnosis, epidemiology, natural cycle, genomics and immunology
• Diagnosis and identification of the first outbreaks of Ebola in Gabon and Republic of Congo.
• Identification and characterization of viral strains responsible for outbreaks in Gabon and Congo between 1996 and 2005.
• Development of RT-PCR diagnosis for Ebola infection. This method is now the new gold standard.
• Identification of people asymptomatically infected with Ebola. Kinetic characterization of their immune response. Detection of a strong early inflammatory response that may play a key role in quickly inhibiting viral replication and the absence of symptoms.
• Demonstration of apoptogenic events in human infection with Ebola virus. The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit demonstrated for the first time the occurrence of mass destruction by apoptosis of circulating T lymphocytes in individuals who die from the infection.
• Identification and characterization of Ebola strains detected in chimpanzees and gorillas.
• IgG seroprevalence studies in several animal species: chimpanzees, gorillas and domestic dogs. The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit is the only lab to have demonstrated a high prevalence in natural populations of great apes in Central Africa. It is also the only lab to have shown that dogs can be naturally infected with Ebola virus and not develop the disease.
• Identification of certain animal sources (gorilla and chimpanzee carcasses) of human contamination. The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit identified for the first time the viral ground zero of certain outbreaks of Ebola.
• Theory and explanation of the occurrence of epidemics among humans and great apes: the concept of multi-emergence from animal reservoir species.
• Discovery that fruit bats are the natural reservoir species of the Ebola virus and the Marburg virus. Seroprevalence studies in bat populations.
• Demonstration of genetic recombination in Ebola virus. The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit is the only lab to have demonstrated the existence of this very rare mechanism in negative strand RNA viruses.
• Identification of the reservoir of Marburg virus and demonstration of the presence of this virus in Gabon
• First identification and characterization of chikungunya virus and dengue virus in Gabon
• Demonstration of a simultaneous outbreak of chikungunya and dengue in Africa.
• Identification of people co-infected with chikungunya and dengue viruses.
• Identification of the involvement of the Aedes albopictus mosquito as the main vector of dengue and chikungunya viruses in a dual epidemic.
• Demonstration of the anthrax bacillus in chimpanzee and gorilla carcasses in the forest zone of Central Africa (Cameroon). This is the 2nd time that this bacillus has been isolated in great apes

Public health initiatives and diagnostic activities

The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit conducts public health initiatives and regular diagnostic activities for emerging viral diseases in all countries in the Central African sub-region. These include:

• Epidemiological surveillance. The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit has investigated suspected cases of hemorrhagic fever in different countries of the sub-region (Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Angola).

• Diagnostic testing during epidemics. The Unit performed all diagnostic testing during the Ebola outbreaks that occurred between 1996 and 2005. Finally, the Unit also performed all diagnostic testing during the outbreaks of chikungunya and dengue fever that occurred in Gabon in 2007 and 2008.

• Surveillance of animal mortality. The Unit performs diagnostic testing on all wild animal carcasses in the Central African countries.

• Development of new methods for diagnosis of Ebola infection in collaboration with the WHO.

• Participation in the international response against each Ebola outbreak that occurred between 1996 and 2007, and the national response against the chikungunya and dengue fever outbreaks in Gabon in 2007 and 2008.

TRAINING


Training of researchers Gabon

The Emerging Viral Diseases Unit hosts on a full time basis: 6 PhD students in science, 2 PhD students in medicine, 1 PhD student in veterinary medicine, 3 masters students and a number of short-term interns in the field of emerging diseases.

PARTNERSHIPS


Although it is the principal investigator in many research programs, the Emerging Viral Diseases Unit has nevertheless developed a network of national and international partnerships. Nationally, the Unit works with the Department of Virology of the Faculty of Medicine of Libreville. At the sub-regional level, the Unit has established institutional ties and conducts joint research with the Pasteur Centre in Cameroon, the National Institute of Biomedical Research in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, the Brazzaville National Laboratory in the Republic of Congo and the Pasteur Institute in Bangui, Central African Republic. Finally, at the international level, the Unit works closely with the Special Pathogens Unit of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Marcel Mérieux BSL-4 laboratory in Lyon and the associated units of the Pasteur Institute and INSERM, and the Special Pathogens Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the USA.

The diagnostic activities are conducted jointly and at the request of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the authorities of affected countries.

INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION


During its 10 years of existence, the Emerging Viral Diseases Unit has earned well-deserved national and international recognition:
• Apart from the one in South Africa, the Unit has the only high-security laboratory in Africa qualified to handle highly pathogenic viruses.
• The Unit’s technical facilities are modern, efficient, and capable of diagnosing most viral hemorrhagic fevers and arboviruses likely to occur in Central Africa.
• The Unit is a partner of the WHO for the diagnosis of viral hemorrhagic fever in Central Africa, a WHO partner for the investigation of animal mortality in central Africa, and national reference centre for the diagnosis of VHF and arboviruses.
• The Unit has earned an international reputation in research on emerging viral diseases and more specifically viral hemorrhagic fevers, through publications in high impact journals. It also organized the 4th international conference on the Ebola and Marburg viruses in Libreville in March 2008 that brought together experts on filoviruses from all over the world.

FUNCTIONAL ORGANIZATION


The functional organization of the unit is shown in the diagram below :