Clinical Training Course in Liberia Boosts Biopreparedness Efforts in West Africa

(Monrovia, March 27, 2017) — The Joint West Africa Research Group (JWARG) today begins a week-long clinical course in tropical and emerging infectious diseases for clinicians and lab professionals in Monrovia, Liberia. This training will help strengthen clinical skills needed to enhance research capability in West Africa. The 2014 Ebola epidemic highlighted gaps in local and regional disease data, research capabilities, and resources available to address epidemics in West Africa. As a result, JWARG was initiated and U.S. and West African partnerships were strengthened to help bridge this gap.

The course will include training on several specific diseases of concern in Liberia, including Ebola, Lassa fever, malaria, typhoid, and HIV, as well as training on sepsis from any cause. Lectures will also address clinical response to infectious disease threats, including diagnostics, prevention, treatment and ethics. Students include clinicians from Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria who are partnering with JWARG to conduct research. Physicians and scientists from JWARG’s partner institutions in West Africa and the United States are teaching the course.

“This initiative is a unique collaboration between military and civilian partners in West Africa,” said U.S. Ambassador Christine Elder. “Each group brings unique perspectives and strengths to the table, enabling the Group to develop strategies and capabilities that will help prepare the region for future disease outbreaks.”

The training follows on the establishment of Liberia’s first clinical microbiology lab in 40 years at Phebe Hospital, implemented in late 2016 with support from JWARG. Prior to that, Liberia had no advanced microbiology diagnostic capabilities. This improved capability is critical to the management of infectious diseases.

JWARG efforts in Liberia will also enhance the capabilities of West African physicians, scientists, and institutions to conduct clinical research, build and strengthen research capabilities in the region, provide an effective surveillance mechanism, develop effective countermeasures and also broaden understanding of relevant infectious disease threats. A local partner, Africabio Enterprises, Inc., supports JWARG efforts in Liberia.

The Joint West Africa Research Group (JWARG) is a collaborative initiative launched in 2015 between military, academic and nonprofit organizations to leverage existing research platforms and relationships to improve biopreparedness in the region. JWARG partners include the Austere Environment Consortium for Enhanced Sepsis Outcomes (ACESO) at the Naval Medical Research Center, U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Walter Reed Program-Nigeria, Naval Medical Research Unit 3-Ghana Detachment, African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID), The Sabeti lab at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the Henry Jackson Foundation (HJF), and other military, government and academic institutions. Liberian partners include the medical research division (formerly LIBR) of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), and Phebe Hospital.