AFRICA—CEPI, an innovative combination of public, private, charitable, and civil groups, has collaborated with Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) scientists to find the most reliable on-the-spot testing for two viral illnesses that have the potential to produce devastating epidemics.

In this four-year CEPI-funded study led by FIND, CEPI has committed to providing up to US$14.9 million to the project, which will run from February 2024 to January 2028.

The team will analyze and evaluate all available point-of-care testing methods for the two diseases, after which FIND researchers will define criteria for an ideal quick diagnostic test and choose rapid assays for Lassa and Nipah to test against those criteria.

Successful diagnoses will be licensed for broader use, with the two partners collaborating to improve the best-performing ones for future testing, approval, and widespread use.

There are presently no available vaccines for Nipah and Lassa, although multiple vaccines are under development, with CEPI sponsoring four vaccine candidates for Lassa and three for Nipah.

High-quality diagnostic tests are critical components of vaccine development, particularly for the appropriate design and execution of clinical trials.

With both Nipah and Lassa vaccine pipelines nearing the end of their clinical trials, reliable, on-the-spot tests will be critical for quickly identifying cases.

In addition to the vital requirement for tests to ensure early diagnosis for speedy patient treatment and outbreak detection, they are also important in identifying high-risk locations to better design effectiveness trials and providing proper case management for infected patients enrolled in studies.

According to In-Kyu Yoon, CEPI’s Executive Director for Research and Development, high-quality and rapid diagnostic tests for Nipah and Lassa are desperately needed to aid patients as soon as they seek healthcare in the community and to assist public health professionals in responding to outbreaks.

He went on to say that early disease detection will allow health workers to initiate targeted therapy as soon as possible and, if necessary, move patients to the next level of care for further study and management.

 He finished by adding that quick tests can be used for public health actions like patient isolation and contact tracking, as well as to help create tools like vaccinations to combat these fatal diseases.

Dr. Cassandra Kelly-Cirino, Vice-President of FIND’s Health Programmes, stated that access to quality, rapid diagnostic testing is the cornerstone of global health security.

She went on to say that this initiative is the first of its kind under the 100 Days Mission framework, involving the integrated development of a portfolio of tools spanning diagnostics and vaccinations.

She also warned that a lack of testing to detect repeated outbreaks of both Nipah and Lassa puts individuals at risk of these deadly diseases while also posing a hazard to entire populations.

Having the instruments to detect these epidemics early is crucial for their containment; she believes that the FIND-CEPI collaboration will hasten the development of critically required, high-quality tests that can be utilized in communities and primary health centers to reduce transmission.

She finished by highlighting their concern about ensuring that these tests are available, accessible, and affordable to the countries that require them.”

Nipah and Lassa Fever are both zoonotic, with their natural hosts being fruit bats and rats, respectively.

Nipah causes severe, rapidly progressive illness, including inflammation of the brain, and up to 70% of those infected with Nipah die, whereas rat-borne lassa fever causes acute hemorrhagic disease.

Nipah outbreaks are mostly confined to South and Southeast Asia, which has a population of over 2 billion people, making this virus a possible pandemic threat, whereas Lassa Fever is endemic in several West African countries.

Early pathogen detection is crucial to the 100 Days Mission, a goal shared by the G7 and G20 to produce vaccinations, diagnostics, and treatments against emerging pathogens within 100 days of virus detection, giving the world a chance to avoid the next pandemic.

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