Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases

Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases with epidemic potential are a persistent threat to global health security, as well as to public health in many African countries. Ebola and yellow fever are native to sub-Saharan Africa, but infectious disease threats with epidemic potential can also be imported from other continents.

The 2014–16 West Africa Ebola epidemic, which claimed the lives of more than 11,000 people directly and at least as many indirectly through its impact on health systems, highlighted the threat posed by emerging and re-emerging infections in sub-Saharan Africa. As well as struggling to meet clinical challenges, the countries affected were poorly prepared to carry out research that could have improved responses to the epidemic and to future outbreaks.

In 2019, global support was mobilised to tackle a major Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Towards the end of the year, people in China began to fall ill from an unusual form of pneumonia, later shown to be caused by a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and destined to become a devastating global pandemic (COVID-19). These two examples vividly illustrate the hugely damaging health and economic impact of infectious disease outbreaks.

In April 2020, and with additional financial support of several EDCTP member countries, EDCTP activated its Emergency funding mechanism to ensure a quick start of COVID-19 research in sub-Saharan Africa. Earlier, this mechanism was activated as the world responded to the 2018 Ebola outbreak in DRC.

EDCTP portfolio: emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases

Collaborative clinical trials and clinical research (2014-2021)