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Project meeting to discuss the status and way forward of Vmerge

15 May 2015 - The Emerging viral vector-borne diseases (Vmerge) partners met in Rome to review the progress made by the project at its half way point. A two-day mid-term meeting was hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome.

Vmerge is an EU-funded project which is focused on emerging viral vector borne diseases (VBDs) and covers a wide range of disciplines from molecular & serology tools and vector competency to field collections, early warning approaches and transmission models.

The overall objective of Vmerge is to address the risk of introduction, emergence and spread of known or still unknown vector-borne viruses (VBV) transmitted through mosquitoes and Culicoides biting midges. Vmerge intends to improve the current limited understanding of these emerging VBV and their potential for spread throughout northern Africa and Europe, as well as enhancing epidemiological surveillance strategies and tools for better disease detection.

Within Vmerge, FAO focuses its activities on RVF in Northern Africa and Senegal, specifically on: (i) RVF modelling and risk mapping to improve early detection and preparedness; (ii) ensure the translation of newly acquired knowledge into strategies and tools that are incorporated by policy makers in the beneficiary countries; (iii) disseminating research outcomes to the veterinary services and other stakeholders; and (iv) coordination of capacity building in northern Africa and the Sahel.

The objective of the mid-term review meeting was to consolidate the multidisciplinary approach, while ensuring that activities and outputs are running smoothly and will be achieved.

The meeting started with a half-day plenary session with transversal introductory talks highlighting metagenomics and new diagnostic tools; different models of distribution and transmission of vectors tested in Senegal and Mauritania; and methods and approaches for surveillance and early warning for vector-borne diseases. These talks were followed by brief overviews of all six work packages (WP) presented by the respective lead partner.

The plenary was followed by three parallel group discussion sessions as follow:

  1. Molecular techniques for arbovirus detection, serological tools, genetic diversity of arbovirus and insect microbiota (WP1);
  2. Vector ecology and competence (WP2); and
  3. Distribution and transmission modelling, surveillance analysis (WP3, WP4 and WP5).

These discussions allowed partners to get updated on the status of work, to define and coordinate coming activities and fix problems and issues encountered. 

Under the Vmerge project, FAO is leading the WP6 on the dissemination and field implementation of Vmerge work, while also contributing to other tasks and activities under different other work packages. FAO has also already completed and shared the mapping of all projects relevant to RVF and vector ecology.

Currently, FAO is working on the development of EMPRES-i genetic module for RVF, following the genetic module developed for avian influenza.

FAO is also working on RVF modeling and risk mapping to improve early detection and preparedness in Mauritania and Senegal. This will include the production of monthly RVF risk maps based on environmental and climatic predictors, which will be shared online through FAO website.

Additionally, FAO is planning capacity building activities through the organization of a training workshop sometime in September 2015 on RVF risk-based surveillance and the development of RVF contingency plans. This workshop will target non affected countries in northern Africa through the Mediterranean Animal Health Network (REMESA).

On the dissemination point of view, FAO will coordinate the dissemination of Vmerge activities through all mechanisms to ensure that all relevant stakeholders are reached, e.g. veterinary services, public health authorities, the scientific community, policy makers, industry, etc.

Overall, FAO will aim to ensure that Vmerge-generated knowledge and tools and are translated into policy that can be adopted by national authorities. This will be done through the organization of a consultation workshop with national authorities and policy makers (through REMESA), plus the development of manuals and guidelines.


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