MediLabSecure has recently introduced a call for leadership initiative within its network, and today, we have the pleasure of introducing one of the awardees, Dr. Wasfi Fares, a biologist assistant at Institut Pasteur de Tunis. Dr. Fares has been selected for his initiative titled "Regional Workshop on Multidisciplinary Field Outbreak Investigation", which focuses on West Nile Virus in Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya. In this interview, we have the opportunity to explore Dr. Fares' project and his aspirations for a more prepared future in effectively addressing these challenges.
Can you tell us about the initiative you presented?
Wasfi Fares: “The aim is to unite three neighboring countries around a common public health theme. Tunisia is endemic to the West Nile Virus and experiences meningitis cases every three years. Algeria and Libya show a similar pattern but lacks sufficient investigation. To address this, we created a field simulation in North Tunisia using the mobile laboratory from Institut Pasteur de Tunis. We will target a team in human virology to investigate and sequence human meningitis cases using nanopore technology. MediLabSecure trained us to use this technology effectively.”
“In parallel, we would involve a team specializing in medical entomology to collect mosquitoes in the simulated region. This team would conduct molecular diagnostics and sequencing. Ultimately, our workshop's final report would confirm strain circulation through PCR and provide its molecular characterization using nanopore sequencing.”
Why did you choose these countries (Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya) and institutions for your initiative?
Wasfi Fares: “The choice of Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya was primarily based on geographical proximity, sharing similar biotopes, circulating vectors and disease characteristics. Moreover, as part of the Euro-Africa region, these countries experience significant interactions between Europe and Africa. My long-term vision behind this initiative would establish a regional network capable of predicting, investigating, and swiftly responding to potential virus introductions in real-time, whether through vectors or human cases.”
In your opinion, would it have been possible to establish this type of initiative without the support of MediLabSecure?
Wasfi Fares: “I really don't think so. It's not solely about funding. MediLabSecure is more than just a financial matter; it's a cohesive team, almost like a family. Especially with the consortium, they go the extra mile to make things easier for everyone involved.”
According to you, what would be the impact of this workshop on the participating institutions?
Wasfi Fares: “Ultimately, the impact would be the establishment of standardized protocols among Institut Pasteur d’Algérie, Institut Pasteur de Tunis, and the Libyan laboratory. This means that when a case is reported in Libya, Algeria, or Tunisia, we can confidently confirm its positive status. Through sharing our expertise across the three countries, we can work together towards a regional working code.”
What would be the follow-up of the workshop?
Wasfi Fares: “I aim to broaden this initiative by involving Morocco, Mauritania, and Egypt. Together, we can establish a sub-cluster within the MediLabSecure network, dedicated to the North African region. This will enhance communication and facilitate monitoring efforts.”