Creating an early detection system for infectious diseases in Africa

Many African nations are extremely vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks, including Ebola, Lassa fever, Zika, and West Nile virus. A March 17, 2021, Wired article looked at the joint effort of two scientists—Christian Happi and Pardis Sabeti—to develop tools and systems to quickly detect viral outbreaks in Africa and better coordinate national and local responses.

Happi, a visiting scientist in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a professor at Nigeria’s Redeemer’s University, and Sabeti, a professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard Chan School and a member of the Broad Institute, have worked together for two decades to tackle the issue. They have developed new diagnostic tests, including cheap paper strip tests that can detect common viruses, and they are working to create information systems to rapidly share real-time data on viral outbreaks using mobile phone applications.

“I see no reason why Africa shouldn’t be the leaders in the field of infectious disease prevention and innovation,” Happi said. Added Sabeti, “African people are very familiar—sadly—with infectious disease. But that also means they’re very well poised and positioned to do this.”

Read the Wired article: These scientists are already on the hunt for the next pandemic