Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases are a threat to public health, as we saw with SARS in 2003, the influenza (H1N1pdm09) pandemic in 2009, MERS-CoV in 2012, and Ebola in West Africa in 2013, and as we are currently witnessing with Zika on the American continent. Frequent travel and increasing global economic interdependence have only served to add to the complexity of managing such threats. The Outbreak Investigation Task Force is the Institut Pasteur's response to outbreaks of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
Via the Institut Pasteur International Network (IPIN - 33 institutes in 26 countries) the Institut Pasteur has a long tradition of collaborating with local health ministries to organize training programs and to strengthen capacities in outbreak detection and response, irrespective of whether or not the pathogens in question are known. Since 2014, when it inaugurated its dedicated Outbreak Investigation Task Force, the Institut Pasteur has formalized its process of responding to outbreaks of infectious diseases.
The role of the Outbreak Investigation Task Force
The task force comprises 50 members, spread across 10 institutes within the IPIN, and is a multidisciplinary group of clinicians, epidemiologists, microbiologists, veterinarians and – for urgent situations such as the Zika outbreak – entomologists. The task force is deployed at the request of the countries concerned or the World Health Organization (WHO). It provides an immediate response that aims to control an outbreak in its early stages, by identifying and treating cases, implementing isolation or quarantine conditions, gathering clinical and epidemiological data, and collecting the necessary samples to identify the microbial agent responsible. In a second phase, once the pathogen has been identified, the aim is to develop a targeted diagnostic test that is compatible with field conditions and to launch longer-term research into specific treatments and/or a vaccine.
A mechanism for advancing the One Health initiative
Human and animal health, and the status of ecosystems are inextricably linked, with nearly 75% of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases that have affected humans within the last three decades being of zoonotic origin. In recognition of the fact that global surveillance of infectious diseases must therefore expand beyond humans to include animal and environmental aspects of pathogen emergence and re-emergence, the Institut Pasteur, via the Center for Global Health and the OITF, has become a key proponent of the One Health initiative. The Institut Pasteur and the IPIN regularly conduct and coordinate multi-sector investigations of cases of disease in humans, from rabies to influenza H5N1, in collaboration with ministries of agriculture and health in affected countries. This enables the Institut Pasteur and the OITF to integrate the One Health initiative into the global health agenda.
Text by Arnaud Fontanet, director of the Center for Global Health.
This text illustrates the report “The Geopolitics of the Mosquito” - Go further with our experts!, published to coincide with the release of Erik Orsenna's book, Géopolitique du moustique, Ed. Fayard.