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Bernhard Nocht Insitute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM)

The BNITM has long experience in diagnostics of emerging infections and collaborating with international partners including sub-Saharan African countries. Within the GHPP, the BNITM focuses on response to infectious diseases threats by supporting stationary diagnostic labs for the identification of emerging, tropical infections, and by establishing field labs in sub-Saharan African countries and the EU for deployment during outbreaks.

The safe and rapid diagnostics of pathogens with epidemic potential and the adequate reaction to outbreaks, especially when occuring in remote areas is still a challenge for national health authorities and the international community in most African countries.

Improved and strengthened capacities are necessary to respond to challenges like the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014 – 2016.  The aim of the Global Health Protection Programme (GHPP) is to strengthen the corresponding structures in Africa so that the devastating impact of emerging, epidemic and tropical infectious diseases on populations can be reduced and cross border spreading be avoided.

Within the framework of the GHPP of the Federal Ministry of Health, BNITM provides extensive expertise in the field of Ebola and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) for the implementation of stationary diagnostic capacities and mobile laboratories to identify and characterize emerging and tropical infections in partner countries.

Reinforcing stationary laboratory capacities is based on partnerships that BNITM has built up over the years with diagnostic facilities and institutes in various African countries, including Nigeria, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Tanzania. The partner universities or institutions are related or under the control of the Ministries of Health and are already playing an important role in the country's epidemic preparedness. The GHPP project aims at bringing state-of-the-art diagnostic capacities and promoting these facilities into national centers for the diagnosis of diseases with high epidemic potential.

The other module of this project for the BNITM concerns mobile field-deployable diagnostic laboratories. Based on the 2.5-year experience of the "European Mobile Laboratory (EMLab)" operations during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, mobile laboratory capacities are being modernized, expanded and strengthened in Germany / Europe as well as in partner countries in Africa. The mobile laboratories coordinated by the BNITM are registered in the European Medical Corps (EMC) as part of the "voluntary pool of assets" in the European Humanitarian Aid and civil protection mechanism (UCPM). The EMLab participates in training courses and exercises in this framework. If necessary, the laboratory units from Germany can be rapidly operational via this mechanism, as it was the case in the summer of 2016 for the yellow fever outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo.