Research Department

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Epicentre’s Research department conducts original research that is strategically aligned with the MSF goals of providing healthcare to relevant to people who are excluded from adequate health care.

Epicentre has a track record in researching alternative solutions with existing diagnostic tools and therapeutic interventions, such as gathering data on different medication or vaccine dosing strategies or new combinations of existing drugs.

Epicentre also has clinical development projects for vaccines or diagnostic tools that are not yet licensed. These tend to be R&D projects that are relevant to MSF’s health agenda and that are in phase 3 or 4 development, i.e. the final stages before a product can be licensed and employed in the field.

The results of the studies are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals and is used to inform the public health policy of MSF and in the wider global health community.

Examples of recent and ongoing activities

Snake bites

It is estimated that in Africa there are annually around 1 million snakebites, causing 20 000 deaths. Snakebite treatment is difficult because not all venom is the same, and the amount of venom injected is not known. There are very few clinical data available for antivenom that can be used in Africa. Epicentre aims to collect data in Paoua (Democratic Republic of Congo) that will give better insight into suitable for use in Africa.

Mental health in children

The study developed and validated a rapid and simple cross-cultural tool to screen children 6 to 36 months old for emotional and behavioural difficulties to be used by lay interviewers in humanitarian contexts, and to orient children to psychological care if needed. The tool was validated in three stages in Nairobi (Kenya) and in Kampong Cham (Cambodia), and Mbarara (Uganda). Results of the study indicate that, once appropriately translated and adapted to local context, the tool can be used to raise awareness of children’s mental health among the population. Early recognition can limit long-term and developmental consequences. An earlier study by Epicentre developed a similar cross-cultural tool for children aged between 3 and 6 years old.

Meningitis

Meningitis outbreaks due to Neisseria meningitides continue to plague sub-Saharan Africa. A good vaccine against group A meningitis is widely used and has drastically reduced the scale of epidemics, however other groups have been responsible for sizeable outbreaks. Large-scale reactive vaccination campaigns to stop such outbreaks from spreading are difficult to launch in a timely manner in a countries with limited resources. There is a need therefore to explore additional strategies. Antibiotic prophylaxis is already used in high-income countries to stop the spread of disease. Epicentre is currently in Niger researching if this intervention can be successfully adapted in a low resource setting.

Other selected research activities can be found here:

Epicentre Uganda Research Center

Epicentre Niger Research Center