The experience of IRD researchers in intertropical zones provides valuable lessons in terms of pandemic analysis, epidemiology, treatment and public health policy orientation.

IRD researchers and their scientific partners are strongly mobilized against the pandemic, through concerted research actions.

Our teams are mobilizing everywhere to fight the pandemic

Implementation of diagnostic resources, social science insights, support for epidemiological monitoring, links with biodiversity upheavals, analysis of health system responses: the Institute's research and resources were redirected to fight the pandemic as soon as possible.

The IRD has an interdisciplinary and partnership COVID-19 scientific committee since April 2. Composed of 8 members, researchers from the Institute and scientific partners, it advises the governance and coordinates the Institute’s scientific actions during the current health emergency.

The presence of IRD researchers on long-term missions or abroad or special IRD teams (mixed units, young associated teams) on the partners' premises has favored rapid reactions.

Working with African partners to stop the spread of the virus on the continent

  • The TransVIHMI MRU (Montpellier) is leading the cORAF project (Coronavirus Africa), which aims to provide a rapid response to the social issues raised by the epidemic and to inform decision-makers by comparing the response in Senegal (ministerial initiative), Burkina Faso (community initiative) and Benin. The study is based in particular on the monitoring and analysis of online media and opinions. The same TransVIHMI unit, via the Prévihmi (Cameroon and DRC) and RESPIRE (Guinea) IMLs, supported the implementation of diagnostic resources in these three countries. The RAEE network works also in Senegal, Benin, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Burkina-Faso. 
  • In Guinea, the TransVIHMI works with scientific partners on several research projects (how the elites and the people apprehend and negotiate the epidemic moment, a comparative Ebola - Coronavirus approach, Solthis funding; social constructions of risk and material conditions of its management, ENABEL financing; with CERFIG, preparation of a feasibility study on the Covid-19 risk self-assessment) 
  • The Intertryp unit in Guinea provides support for the diagnosis, with the PNLTHA (programme national de lutte contre la trypanosomiase humaine africaine) of the Ministry of Health and prepares a training for the health centers of trypanosomiasis, following the instructions of the WHO. 
  • The UVE unit’s expertise has helped Mali and Senegal in their detection work (as well as Bolivia and Martinique).  
  • At CIRMF (Gabon), the WHO reference laboratory for zoonoses in Central Africa, the Mivegec Unit (including through the presence of an IRD researcher on site) was called upon to bring diagnostic resources closer to the population.
  • The Mivegec unit is also mobilized in Burkina-Faso, Madagascar (as well as in Mexico) to help model the epidemic in order to support public decision-making.
  • The SESSTIM unit is in contact with the Ministry of Health in Burkina Faso to help analyze the progression of the virus.
  • In Ghana, the Merit unit, at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (the national reference center for Covid-19 screening), is providing logistical support in order to increase diagnostic capacity. 
  • IRD is a member of the  pan-African Network For Rapid Research, Response, Relief and Preparedness for Infectious Diseases Epidemics (PANDORA-ID-NET) consortium, which is currently working with the African CDC to provide monitoring and training assistance to the teams on site.
  • IRD is a partner of WANETAM, West African Network for poverty related diseases (PRDs), which has received funding from the Gates Foundation to stop the spread of the virus in Africa.

As well as with our Asian partners 

  • The Vitrome, MEPHI and UVE units have been at the forefront caring for the first people repatriated from China through theMéditerranée Infection UHI and continue to be heavily involved in ongoing screening and testing.
  • Thanks to the presence in Laos in February 2020 of an IRD (UVE) researcher, support was provided for the training of teams at the Mahosot Hospital in Vientiane on infection diagnosis technology. The Institute is involved in two other research projects on monitoring the emergence and spread of the virus, monitoring it in rural areas and a possible ANR project on animals in markets.
  • The PHPT international research unit of the IRD in Thailand responded to a call from the Welcome Trust and proposed a clinical and virological study in febrile pregnant women.
  • Along with IRD's thai partners (AMS: Faculty of Medical Sciences), a molecular biology laboratory has been set up to offer screening tests in the form of "drive-through" tests (outside the city and at a distance from hospitals, so as to allow people to have as few interactions as possible and thus reduce the fear of contamination)
  • In Vietnam, a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Ummisco, Mivegec and Diade is using available data to build realistic spatialized computer models in order to inform public health decisions (comparisons and combinations between strategies, influence on transmission dynamics, possible optimizations in terms of implementation time, etc.). The templates are freely available for consultation and can be downloaded from JEAI Warm’s gitHub server. The detailed methodology can be found on the GAMA website. 
  • In Cambodia, the Espace-Dev unit, at the Pasteur Institute of Cambodia has developed a dashboard allowing the monitoring of test results and the mapping of case : it contributes to the work of the Emergency Operating Center of the Cambodian CDC of the Ministry of Health. Others tools are in preparation. 

Contributing to the collective scientific mobilization against the virus

  • Two IRD scientific initiatives led respectively by Laetitia Atlani-Duault and Marc Egrot and centered on social science inputwere selected as part of the mobilization coordinated by Aviesan to accelerate research on the virus and on the COVID-19 disease, through the action of the REACTing consortium coordinated by Inserm. The project, led by Laetitia Atlani-Duault, aims to analyze big data from social networks (for the French-speaking part, this includes West Africa).
  • Several research projects involving IRD teams have been selected for funding by the European Commission aimed at advancing the understanding of coronavirus, contributing to more effective clinical management and the preparedness and response of public health systems to the epidemic: assessment with The European Virus Archive - GLOBAL (EVA-GLOBAL or EVAg) as well as PANDORA-ID-NET.
  • The COCONEL research project (Coronavirus and Containment: Longitudinal survey) carried out within the Vitrome MRU aims to analyze the perceptions, knowledge and behavior of the French population with regard to the unprecedented experience of containment and, more generally, with regard to the pandemic. This project received financial support from IRD for a first wave of surveys.
  • An experiment has been launched by the ISEM MRU (Jean-Christophe Avarre) and IDVet focusing on a quick diagnostic solution.
  • The IMBE unit contributes to the participatory science initiative "Silent cities, a participatory monitotring program of an exceptional modification of urban sounds", to create a collection of urban sounds environnements to document these rare sound landscapes.

Analyzing and anticipating the pandemic

  • The PIMIT unit worked on the phylogeny of the virus.
  • Three researchers from the Ceped and RESILIENCES MRUs have obtained funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for a project co-led with McGill University on the response to COVID-19 from four different healthcare systems (Canada, France, Brazil and Mali). 
  • IRD researchers are working on epidemic modeling, including within the Mivegec unit (a project selected as part of the ANR’s Flash Covid-19)
  • Researchers from AMSE, a unit associated with IRD, have proposed an approach to global pandemics by measuring and monitoring the acceleration/deceleration of confirmed cases and deaths in relation to health policy responses. 

Searching for vaccination and treatment options

  • The Méditerranée Infection UHI team is working (under IRD supervision) on the effectiveness of the use of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of Covid-19. The first promising results show a clear decrease in the viral load of some of the treated patients.
  • The DiaTropix program, of which IRD is a founding member and to which it provides funding, is currently working on the development of a rapid diagnostic test in Senegal.
  • The TransVIHMI unit in the DRC is working to evaluate treatment with an antiretroviral used against HIV.

Supporting policy decision-making and promoting the distribution of knowledge to the public

  • Laëtitia Atlani-Duault, anthropologist and research director at the IRD, is a member of the Scientific Council, whose aim is to inform public decision-making on how to manage the health situation associated with the coronavirus and was founded at the request of the President of the French Republic by the Minister of Solidarity and Health. She was also appointed to CARE - Analysis, Research and Expertise Committee - by the Presidency. 
  • Researcher Alice Desclaux (TransVIHMI) is contributing to the WHO Blueprint  work group on global research priorities. 
  • Since January, IRD researchers, in their respective areas of expertise, have responded (over 150 articles) to requests from the general and specialized media, providing information and perspectives in the interviews given, for example on the zoonosis that is believed to be at the origin of the pandemic, and more generally on the eco-epidemiological aspects (links with environmental changes and loss of biodiversity). The IRD researchers will also speak in The Conversation and the IRD’s Mag'.