Joint West Africa Research Group to Foster Biopreparedness

The West African Ebola outbreak in 2014-15 highlighted gaps in global public health response and a lack of countermeasures. To help address this, the U.S. DoD invested in a strategic initiative called the Join West Africa Research Group (JWARG) to leverage existing research platforms and relationships to improve biopreparedness in the region.

This new program builds upon WRP-N’s strong partnership with the Nigerian military and its large network of medical facilities and well-trained personnel developed through PEPFAR. This provides a platform to conduct surveillance and clinical research on infectious disease threats beyond HIV.

JWARG is a collaboration between the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Naval Medical Research Unit 3-Ghana Detachment, the Austere Environment Consortium for Enhanced Sepsis Outcomes and other military, government and academic institutions. Partners build upon existing programs in Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia with initiatives focused on lab and clinical strengthening, biosurveillance and countermeasure development.

Laboratory Training

Two laboratory training have already been conducted. The first covered Good Clinical Laboratory Practice and was held in late May 2016. This three-day training in Nigeria included practical sessions, exercises and presentations and was attended by participants from Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia.

June 6, a second JWARG training took place on malaria diagnostics. The training focused on enhancing the technical skills of laboratory personnel in West Africa to accurately diagnose malaria infection using microscopy and rapid diagnostic test kits. Sixteen participants from Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia attended the training at the 445 Nigerian Air Force Hospital Laboratory Training Centre in Lagos, Nigeria.

Clinical Training

June 20-24 JWARG led a clinical course on tropical and emerging infectious diseases in Lagos, Nigeria. This intensive course was developed to improve participants’ ability to identify, diagnose and treat infectious disease threats. Sessions were led by U.S. Army, Navy and civilian partners and more than 40 physicians and healthcare personnel attended.

MHRP has been developing research infrastructure and capability in Nigeria for the last 10 years. The Walter Reed Program-Nigeria began an Ebola vaccine study in 2015 and will begin another (RV456) in 2016.