News from the Group

“WONTANARA!”: “Nous sommes ensemble” in Guinea!

Our laboratory support to Guinea continues thanks to the GHPP programs CELESTA and AfroLabNet 2.0 as “We are together”! 

Our team has developed an exciting and adaptable training portfolio spanning from real-time RT-PCR diagnostics to serology and up to the complexity of metagenomic sequencing! During a month-long visit, we delivered such training at our partner laboratories for viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) in Conakry (CRV-LFHVG), Gueckédou (LFHV-GKD) and N’Zérékoré (HRNZE-LFHV). The three laboratories support the in-country surveillance of infectious viral diseases, and regularly reinforcing such capacity is key. This time, we offered new learning approaches to strongly engage the staff in our trainings, as observing soft white DNA extracts from bananas! Also, two staff from the Gueckédou laboratory joined a training in Conakry to unravel the secrets of nanopore sequencing and phylogenetic analysis. Beyond knowledge increase of staff, it further strengthened the network between these three key laboratories which are pillars of Guinea’s surveillance system of viral hemorrhagic fevers. 

Besides diagnostic capacities, our joint research efforts aim at understanding the circulation of relevant viral diseases in communities. Thanks to the serology platforms established in the laboratories of Gueckédou and N’Zérékoré, crucial studies are ongoing. The “REALISE” study, led by Fara Raymond Koundouno, will soon give us more insights into the seroprevalence of Lassa fever, Marburg virus disease and COVID-19 in communities of the Gueckédou prefecture, whereas Youssouf Sidibé, leading another study, will finally give us soon answers on Lassa fever seroprevalence in another prefecture, N’Zérékoré. We expect compelling outcomes from these researches that will guide health systems of Guinea and other affected countries. 

In partnership with WHO Geneva and WHO Guinea Country Office, the preparedness and readiness level of the three laboratories has been bolstered by the provision of diagnostics reagents for the detection of Ebola virus, Marburg virus, Lassa virus, Yellow fever virus and Dengue virus, allowing for full diagnostic activities in the coming months.

Seven people in colourful clothes, three with WHO vests, are standing on the door step of a building in Guinea. In front of them are two big white and blue boxes that have just been delivered.
One laboratory staff receiving two big boxes with reagents in the presence of three representative of WHO, one BNITM expert and two representatives from hospital.   ©BNITM
Das Bild zeigt vier Menschen in z.T. bunter Alltagskleidung an einem Tisch. Eine von ihnen zieht ein Stäbchen aus einem Teströhrchen, die anderen beobachten den Vorgang.
One laboratory staff pulling out DNA from a tube with the help of one BNITM trainer in the presence of three colleagues.   ©BNITM
Ten Guinean lab staff in casual clothes are leaning over a table pointing at small plastic cards for an excercise. One person on the right wears a purple headscarf and a white shirt.
Ten laboratory staff with plastic cards performing a group task.   ©BNITM
A lab staff is pipetting a sample into a sequencing device, watched by a colleague. He is wearing a blue lab suit and bright blue gloves, red, orange, yellow and blue lab equipment is on the table.
One laboratory staff loads a sequencing device in the presence of one colleague and one BNITM trainer.   ©BNITM

Postcard from Forest Guinea: setup of new laboratory capacities to strengthen the surveillance of viral hemorrhagic fevers

As part of our GHPP-funded programs Celesta and AfroLabNet 2.0 we traveled to Forest Guinea in November 2023 to expand the serological and genomic surveillance capacities of two collaborating laboratories, respectively the Laboratoire des Fièvres Hémorragiques Virales de l’Hôpital Régional de N’Zérékoré (LFHV-HRNZE) in N’Zérékoré and the Laboratoire des Fièvres Hémorragiques Virales de Gueckédou (LFHV-GKD) in Gueckédou. 

Forest Guinea has faced several epidemics of viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHFs) in previous years such as Ebola and Marburg virus diseases, as well as Lassa fever. In support of Guinea’s laboratory epidemic preparedness, our programs focus on addressing laboratory gaps by implementing new capacities to complement the already established VHF diagnostics platforms of LFVH-HNRZE and -GKD. 

Following a 1-week training in N’Zérékoré with four participants, our team successfully completed the setup of a new serology unit at LFHV-HRNZE. The training specifically focused on the detection of immunoglobulin M and G antibodies against Lassa virus. The latter is currently used for operational research on VHFs. 

In addition we held a 2-week introductory training on nanopore sequencing (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) applied to RNA-virus genomic surveillance at LFHV-GKD in Gueckédou. The six staff attending it were primed to basic hands-on and related bioinformatics analysis. This was a milestone achievement in preparation of the VHF genomic surveillance unit to be implemented in 2024-2025 at LFHV-GKD.

These trainings were key in allowing the two laboratories to expand their portfolio of services for the benefit of the Guinean public health surveillance system. BNITM, through GHPP, will continue to support Guinea with other trainings in the coming months and, remotely, with theoretical and technical assistance.

A laboratory scene in Guinea. One local lab staff is pipetting while the trainer and two others are observing.
Lab staff from LFHV-HRNZE pipetting an ELISA plate during the serology training. November 2023, N’Zérékoré, Guinea   ©BNITM
A class room scene in Guinea. A trainer is explaining something shown on a laptop, while six Guinean laboratory staff are listening.
A BNITM trainer and lab staff from LFHV-GKD during an introduction to nanopore sequencing. November 2023, Gueckédou, Guinea.   ©BNITM
A laboratory in Guinea: One lab staff member is loading a flow cell while three colleagues are observing.
Lab staff from LFHV-GKD during hands-on sequencing training in loading and handling a MinION flow cell (Oxford Nanopore Technologies). November 2023, Gueckédou, Guinea.   ©BNITM

The EMLab participates in the medical EU-MODEX in Çanakkale, Türkiye (18-22 Sept. 2023)

The European Mobile Laboratory (EMLab), managed through the Virology Department and Mobile Laboratory group at BNITM, successfully participated in the medical European Union Module Exercise (EU-MODEX1) for civil protection capacities under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM2) in Çanakkale, Türkiye (18-22 September 2023). This was part of the final step towards certification of the EMLab in the EU Civil Protection Pool (ECPP3) as a mobile laboratory capacity from Germany.

The field exercise simulated a medical emergency in the aftermath of an earthquake in Çanakkale, Türkiye, requiring the deployment of different ECPP capacities including emergency medical teams (EMTs), ambulance services, air medical evacuation, technical support assistance teams (TAST), as well as mobile labs. The EMLab team worked closely with other response capacities and provided support to EMTs and local hospitals with basic point of care tests, molecular diagnostics and genomic surveillance.

Check out the official event video from the MODEX press team here:

https://youtu.be/Wfoi_n6imSs?feature=shared

Interoperability and coordination in emergency situation are one of the key components in such MODEX and EMLab, in addition to collaborating closely with various response capacities, also interacted with stakeholders from other relevant organizations including the European Commission (EC), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations (UN), Turkish Ministry of Health and Turkish Ministry for Disaster Management and Civil Protection (AFAD).

The EMLab team comprised 12 experts from the BNITM and from other institutions part of the EMLab network including the Robert Koch Institute (Berlin, Germany), Scientific Solutions (Stockholm, Sweden) and University of Pécs (Pécs, Hungary).

  1. https://www.eu-modex.eu/
  2.  https://civil-protection-humanitarian-aid.ec.europa.eu/what/civil-protection/eu-civil-protection-mechanism_en
  3. https://civil-protection-humanitarian-aid.ec.europa.eu/what/civil-protection/european-civil-protection-pool_en
The image shows a large truck with opened trailer that is loaded with stacks of orange transport boxes.
EMLab boxes arrived at the base of operations to start setup of the lab, in an inflatable tent. The laboratory unit was shipped from the EMLab HQ in Hamburg, Germany and arrived in Çanakkale by truck through the collaboration and support of the Turkish Ministry of Health.   ©EMLab, BNITM
The image is shot in the dark. In the foregound is a large red tent with a brightly lit lab inside. Behind the tent blocks of flats are visible.
EMLab set up their laboratory operations in an inflatable tent on a base of operations shared with other response capacities including the Turkish Type IV RRML and Type II EMT.   ©EMLab, BNITM
The image shows a laboratory in a red tent with staff in lab coats working on benches and with glove boxes.
EMLab team members worked inside a field laboratory setup inside an inflatable tent during the EU MODEX.   ©EMLab, BNITM
A picture of the twelve members of the EMLab Team in front of a white truck, all wearing blue EMLab shirts and vests, looking tired but very happy.
The twelve members of the EMLab team who participated in the EU MODEX in Çanakkale, Türkiye 17-22 September 2023.   ©EMLab, BNITM
The image shows a lab bench lit by a camping light while a staff member pipettes samples into tubes in a green rack.
EMLab member preparing samples in the field laboratory for RT-PCR based human diagnostic tests as part of the MODEX and ECPP certification process.   ©EMLab, BNITM

First step in the expansion of genomic surveillance capacity in Guinea and Nigeria

To strengthen the pre-existing sequencing capacities of our GHPP-partner laboratories in Conakry (Guinea) and Irrua (Nigeria), a joint two-week training on metagenomic sequencing was held in Conakry, Guinea, in June 2023.

Following the successful establishment of two SARS-CoV-2 field sequencing laboratories at the Laboratoire des Fièvres Hemorragiques Virales en Guinée (CRV-LFHVG) in Guinea in 2021, and at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital (ISTH) in Nigeria in 2022, the Outbreak Preparedness and Response (OPR) BNITM team continues its long-term program of sequencing capacity reinforcement in our partner laboratories in West Africa. Our project CELESTA, which is part of the new program phase of GHPP (2023-2025), will expand the genomic surveillance capacity for RNA viruses to support the national surveillance system against future epidemics and pandemics.

Taking advantage of the previously established Nigeria-Guinea cooperation, a team from BNITM and four lab scientists from ISTH traveled to CRV-LFHVG in Conakry in June 2023 to conduct a two-week training course. Four laboratory staff from CRV-LFHVG also participated in the training. The main goal was to train local sequencing staff on a new next generation sequencing workflow for metagenomic sequencing, from sample preparation to in-country analysis. During the training the local staff was also introduced to general concepts of virus phylogeny and new bioinformatic analysis tools.

Das Foto zeigt vier Wissenschafter*innen mit eine Trainerin. Sie stehen vor einem zugezogenen beige-orange gemusteren Vorhang um einen Tisch und schauen bunte Buchstabenfolgen als Veranschaulichung für die durchgeführte Analyse an.
Four sequencing laboratory staff from ISTH, Nigeria, with a BNITM trainer during an introductory training on phylogenetics analysis at CRV-LFHVG, Conakry, Guinea.   ©BNITM

Laborgruppe Duraffour-Pahlmann

Dr. Meike Pahlmann: eine Frau mit hellbrauner Kostümjacke und rotem Pullover darunter (mit V-Ausschnitt und Kette). Sie trägt einen Dutt auf dem Kopf und steht vor einer Graffiti-Wand.
Research Group Leader

Dr. Meike Pahlmann

Telefon: +49 40 285380-588

Fax: +49 40 285380-941

E-Mail: pahlmann@bnitm.de

Dr. Sophie Duraffour: eine Frau mit grüner Bluse und schwarzer Hose auf einem sonnigen Weg mit Bäumen im Hintergrund. Sie hat dunkle, lange Haare.
Research Group Leader

Dr. Sophie Duraffour

Telefon: +49 40 285380-641

Fax: +49 40 285380-941

E-Mail: duraffour@bnitm.de

  • Logo_Alexander_von_Humboldt_Stiftung
  • Logo Bundesministerium fuer Bildung und Forschung
  • Logo Bundesministerium Fuer Gesundheit
  • Logo CSSB
  • Logo DFG
  • Logo DZIF
  • Logo Emerge
  • Logo European Virus Archive goes global
  • Logo Federal Foreign Office
  • Logo GHP
  • Logo GPPEBHS
  • Logo iNext
  • Logo Jürgen Manchot Stiftung
  • Logo LCI
  • Logo Leibniz Gemeinschaft
  • Logo LFF Hamburg
  • Logo Pandora
  • Logo der Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, bestehend den aus drei orangefarbenen Großbuchstaben DND und einem kleinen i mit schwarzem Punkt.