An African regional workshop titled, “Strengthening surveillance for seasonal and rapid response for pandemic influenza in the African Region” was held at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, from 3rd to 7th April, 2017.
Workshop participants in a group photograph
The workshop was a joint collaboration between NMIMR and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta as well as the World Health Organization.
The five-day workshop focused on recent Avian Influenza outbreaks in Africa, review sample collection and shipment, protocols for influenza virus detection and global platforms for influenza data sharing. It again centred on introducing tools for pandemic risk assessment (TIPRA) and emphasizes the One Health Approach for rapid response for pandemic influenza.
Expected outcomes of the workshop included reinforcement of rapid response and control measures for avian influenza for a better understanding of the risk assessment process for pandemic influenza and improved networking on influenza surveillance in the African Region.
A short ceremony was conducted to welcome all the participants.
The delegates were first welcomed by Prof. William Ampofo (Head of National Influenza Centre – NIC, Ghana) to Ghana and to the five days workshop which promised to be educative and knowledge centred.
Prof. Kwadwo Ansah Koram, Director of the Institute also addressed participants and gave them a brief history of the institute and its mandate to conduct research into diseases of public health concern in the country and sub-region. He mentioned the provision of high level laboratory training, laboratory investigations and outbreak support for the Ghana Health Service, and post-doctoral trainings for students from various African countries. He also noted the lack of robust surveillance systems to pick up early warning signs of disease in the African region with reference to the recent Ebola outbreak. He commended WHO, CDC and the Ghana NIC for promoting One Health by inviting experts from different fields, laboratory, epidemiology and the veterinary for the workshop. He hopped that the workshop will be the beginning of long-lasting collaborations between countries and the links formed at the workshop will support the activities and plans of the new African CDC.
Dr. Owen Laws Kaluwa (WHO Country Director – Ghana) commended the great effort and partnership of the US CDC - Influenza division, WHO and the NMIMR for organizing the workshop. He indicated that, the occurrence of avian influenza outbreaks in 2006 and influenza A (H1N1) pdm 2009 triggered coordination of regional preparedness for future outbreaks. At the end of 2016, a total of 34 countries in the African region had established influenza laboratories with minimum standards that provide data to WHO and CDC. The recent outbreaks of avian influenza among poultry in Africa highlights the need for continuous operation of appropriate detection and response mechanisms. He highlighted the support for capacity building efforts to improve monitoring and detection of influenza-like-illness and severe acute respiratory infections in Ghana and the African region. He encouraged the participants to take full advantage of the learning opportunities provided by the workshop to acquire knowledge and skills that will help improve and strengthen influenza surveillance and laboratory systems in their respective countries.
Dr. Dan Baden(US CDC Country Representative)expressed his appreciation to be amongst influenza experts from various African countries to deliberate on issues regarding risk assessments and pandemic preparedness. He gave an update on the contributions of the US CDC to HIV, malaria, immunization, emergency response and influenza virus surveillance activities in Ghana and the partnership between CDC and WHO to increase influenza surveillance capacity in Africa. He concluded by stressing that, in as much as a lot of successes have been reached in the African region, a lot of work still remains. He encouraged the participants to take the opportunity to learn, share stories and experiences and form networks and partnerships to enable effective information sharing to the benefit of Africa and the world population at large.
Friday , 7th of April marked the end of the five-day workshop.
Representing the US CDC Dr. Pamela Ching expressed their heartfelt appreciation to everyone. She hoped the participants enjoyed the workshop and were able to establish new relationships with colleague to share information.
Dr. Magdi Saaman on behalf of WHO HQ also thanked Prof. Ampofo and his team for planning and executing a well-organized workshop. He also thanked all the participants for coming, as it was a pleasure discussing the different topics on influenza. He encouraged the participants to share what they learnt with their colleagues back at home who did not get the opportunity to participate in the workshop.
Dr. Belinda Herring WHO AFRO thanked the University of Ghana, NMIMR and Professor Ampofo for organizing and hosting a great workshop. She said it was incredibly successful and she got to learn a lot from the different countries.
Prof. William Ampofo was grateful to the participants and urged them to continue the partnership which to help build a strong influenza surveillance network and bridge the data gap in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The workshop ended with the presentation of certificates to the participants.
The workshop was attended by fifty-eight (58) participants comprising of epidemiologists, laboratory scientists and veterinarians from twenty (20) African countries namely: Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nigeria, Niger, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Togo , Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
There were eight (8) facilitators from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NMIMR. A representative from the African Society of Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) and the African CDC were also present.
A section of participants during group discussions
The five-day workshop included PowerPoint presentations, Group exercises and Case studies, Skype video presentations with sharing of good practices and experiences among the participants and facilitators.
The workshop was funded by the US CDC, WHO and ASLM with logistical support from the NMIMR Office of Research Support.
JICA delegation with some staff of the Institute in a group photograph
The purpose of the visit was to observe JICA’s activities in Ghana and more especially to see NMIMR which is the symbol of cooperation between Japan and Ghana. This year also marks 90 years after Dr. Hideyo Noguchi arrived in Ghana.
The delegation was first met and welcomed by the Acting Director Prof. Kwabena Bosompem .
Professor Bosompem welcoming Mr. Koshikawa and delegation to the Institute
Mr. Koshikawa was taken to tour the Pagoda where the ashes of Prof. Kenji Honda ( Japanesse Scientist through whose joint effort with Prof. Charles Easmon,that the Institute was built) and the Japanese Resident Architect were laid.
The team was later received at the office of the Director. Welcoming the team, Prof. Bosompem reiterated the Institute’s pleasure to have them visit the Institute. He was much appreciative of the continual and constant support of JICA and Japanese Government towards the management and staff of NMIMR. He said through the NMIMR-JICA collaboration, the institute has recorded remarkable achievements in research and training of many Research Scientists. We have also lived up to the mandate of conducting research into public health importance and support public health programmes of the ministry of health and the Ghana health services.
The Senior Vice President was very much impressed by the way the Institute has been maintained. He mentioned that the efforts of all staff have made the Institute grown to play very important role in Ghana and the West Africa Region and that need to be commended.
He was really happy to observe the proof of the cordial relationship between Ghana and Japan and reiterated that they will do everything possible to maintain this collaboration.
The team was finally taken to tour the biosafety level 3 (P3) laboratory of the virology department. Dr. Kofi Bonney gave a presentation on the samples received as well out the outcome during the Ebola crisis and again on the various researches that are conducted in the laboratory.
Dr. Bonney interacting with the team at the P3 Laboratory Prof. Ampofo exchanging pleasantries with Mr. Koshikawa
The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research on Thursday 16th March, 2017 donated to the children’s ward department at the university of Ghana Hospital.
The donation was the first of its kind by the Institute to the hospital to show love to the children at the ward.
The Institute Administrator, Mr. Okyere Boateng presented the items on behalf of the management and staff. He mentioned that the items were bought from proceeds of contributions of staff during last year's carols festival organized at the Institute. He said it was meant to support the pediatricians and nurses towards the efficient running of the ward at the hospital.
Mrs. Philomina Ofi Duah, the Chief Nursing Officer who received the items on behalf of the staff of the ward was very elated. She said they are overwhelmed by the gifts. “Having thoughts of children at the hospital whiles you are outside is worth mentioning, children are the apple of God’s eye and thank you for remembering us" She added. Mrs. Duah asked the good Lord to replenish and bless all staff of the institute. She hoped that this will be the beginning of more to come.
Rev Seth Asamani who was part of the delegation also prayed with family and children at the hospital for a speedy recovery.
Among the delegation also, were the staff welfare executives. The items donated included cups, diapers, wipes, bowls for sterilization, gloves, spoons , buckets and disinfectants.
Staff of the ward and delegation from the Institute in a group photograph.
Dr. Samuel Adjei Welfare Chairman presenting the items to one of the mothers at the ward.
On the 14th of March, over 75 non-communicable diseases researchers and health professionals gathered at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) in Accra, Ghana to attend the symposium: ‘Advancing non-communicable disease research in West Africa: building cohorts for multidisciplinary research including genomics studies’. NMIMR organized this symposium in collaboration with Navrongo Health Research Center and the Wits NCD Research Leadership Programme, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) include chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (stroke, hypertension), cancer, diabetes, lung diseases and mental health disorders. NCDs are rising rapidly in sub-Saharan African countries. In fact, more than half of all deaths are caused by NCDs and action is urgently needed to halt the rise. Research will be key to effectively combat the NCD epidemic. In addition to epidemiological studies, the more recently started genomics studies about the role of genes, their functions and interaction with the environment will be essential toidentify strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
The symposium was organized by postdoctoral researchers Dr. Mary Amoakoh-Coleman (NMIMR) and Dr. Paulina Tindana (Navrongo Health Research Center), both fellows of the Fogarty-NIH funded Wits NCD Research Leadership Training Program, introduced by Prof. Kerstin Klipstein-Grobusch (UMC Utrecht/Wits).
In the morning, various successful NCD research initiatives were presented. Dr. Evelyn Konkor Ansah, Deputy Director of the Research & Development Division of the Ghana Health Services presented the national priorities for NCD research. Dr. Vincent Boima presented the Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) Kidney Disease Network, an initiative that focuses on the genetics underlying kidney diseases and other NCDs. Prof. Ama de-Graft Aikins introduced the Research on Obesity and Diabetes among African Migrants (RODAM) study, run by a consortium of African and European partners that follows the health status of Ghanaians in rural Ghana, urban Ghana, London, Berlin and Amsterdam. Prof. Jacob Plange-Rhuleemphasized the need for capacity building, engagement of early career researchers in NCD-related research, and need for collaboration and funding opportunities to support effective NCD research. Dr. Mary Amoakoh-Coleman illustrated the potential of long-term cohorts and genomic studies, and called upon the participants and other stakeholders to invest in establishing these studies to answer NCD research questions.
The first session in the afternoon focused on ethical issues in genomic research. Dr. Cynthia Bannerman from the Ghana Health Service introduced the view of Ethics committees on genetic (genomic) studies, and ethical issues for researchers to consider in the conduct of research. Dr. Paulina Tindana provided the guiding principles for ethics in genomics and biobanking research in Africa. These ask research to be (a) sensitive to and respectful of African values and cultures; (b) be for the benefit of African people; (c) conduct and dissemination of data in publications should take place in genuine and active participation of African investigators and other African stakeholders. Both called for investments in capacity of researchers and ethics committees to ensure ethical standards are upheld in the design and conduct of research.
Early career researchers presented their research in the second session of the afternoon. Dr. Samuel Antwi Oppong, obstetrician at Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, conducted a study to improve maternal and infant health outcomes of women with sickle cell disease (SCD) in pregnancy. Through a multidisciplinary team and optimized management protocols, this resulted in a substantial reduction of maternal and perinatal deaths. Dr. OluwafemiPopoola from the University of Ibadan, presented the challenges of cardiovascular disease management at primary care facilities frontline health workers face, and opportunities to improve this. Dr. Samuel MawuliAdadey presented a study that disentangled the genetics of hearing impairment in an African population.
In the closing remarks, Prof. Michele Ramsey from Wits University;Dr. Akindele Adeyemi from the University of Ibadan, Dr. Roberta LampteyNarteyfrom Korle Bu and Dr. MamusuKamanda from the INDEPTH network reiterated the widely supported commitment to increased collaboration between various researchers, studies and institutions.
The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) has held its Annual Research Meeting (ARM) from Monday 6th to Tuesday7th February 2017 at the Institute's Conference Hall, University of Ghana with the theme: “from bench to bedside : improving healthcare in Ghana and beyond”.
The Annual Research Meeting (ARM) dates back to the year 2000 and bring together stakeholder institutions involved in public health management and related issues. The ARM has been established to provide a platform for interaction amongst Medical Researchers and practitioners, Health Policy and Decision Makers, Disease Control Program Managers, health related NGOs, the Scientific Community, Universities, Media and the General Public in the country.
The programme commenced with a welcome address by the Director of the Institute, Prof. Kwadwo A. Koram. He welcomed all present to the maiden meeting. Having stated that, the meeting was a revived one because it used to happen some years ago, he mentioned also that, starting the ARM this year is opportune for the institute because it marks the 90th year of the arrival of Dr. Hideyo Noguchi to the shores of Ghana, then Gold Coast, in the search for the cause of yellow fever. Having given the history of the institute, and some of the research activities that have gone on since its establishment, he then brought to notice, the new opportunities underway – contractual arrangements for the beginning of work on the new laboratories; collaboration with the new University of Ghana Medical Centre and the expectation to be called upon to offer more services to clinical work. As to how our research work can move from the bench to the bedside, the presentation of work in the institute will give headway to the knowledge of research and how to apply them – a step to the bedside.
His address ended with the a debt of gratitude to the VW Foundation, which is supporting dissemination activities of Buruli Ulcer Studies, for their generous support; and also to other sponsors and the Local Organizing Committee chaired by Dr. Michael F. Ofori for their commitment and effort put into to the revival of the Annual Research Meeting.
A cross-section of participants at ARM
Chairman’s Opening Remarks
The Chairman for the occasion, Emeritus Professor Francis K. Nkrumah in his opening remarks, also expressed his immense gratitude to the LOC for the good work done. He reiterated brief history of the institute and reminded all present of the mandate entrusted in the hands of the institute. That is to conduct Biomedical Research into diseases of Public Health Concern and also to offer training programmes to student (which includes Post-doctoral fellowship).
He pointed out the rise in Non-communicable diseases such as cancer, hypertension and diabetes, and admitted the need for the bench work to reach the bedside. He again added that the reason for the meeting was to disseminate on-going research and to collaborate with other research facilities for further research work.
Professor Patrick S. Ayeh-Kumi, Provost of the College of Health Sciences, commended NMIMR for her active role in the College since the inception of the College; and that it has been a pillar in the Ghanaian Health Care System. The ARM, in his view, is a strategic way of attracting stakeholders and he believes it is a better platform for the discussion of health problems.
His Excellency Kaoru Yoshimura, Japanese Ambassador also commented on the very good collaboration between the governments of Ghana and Japan. He nicknamed NMIMR as the land of Gold and Platinum relating it to the abundance of Gold in Ghana and the abundance of Platinum in Japan.
Mr. Bernhard Abels, Deputy Head of Missions at German Embassy representing the German Ambassador expressed his appreciation to the VW Foundation for their support in international Medical Research; in that their main motive for starting the foundation was not narrow – focusing on only German institutions. He also acknowledged Ghana’s effort in the fight against Ebola.
Dr. Edwin Ampadu who spoke on behalf of the Director of the Ghana Health Service mentioned that research work should not be left on the bench but be practically be implemented at the “bedside” to support or improve upon the health system in the country.
from left: Mr. Mr. Bernhard Abels,Prof. Kwadwo A. Koram, Professor Patrick S. Ayeh-Kumi, Professor Francis K. Nkrumah,
His Excellency Kaoru Yoshimura,& Mr. Koji Makino.
The keynote address was given by Dr. Fred Wurapa. Dr. Wurapa commended NMIMR also for the various research activities on-going and a good collaboration with the Ghana Health Service. He also mentioned that NMIMR has participated actively in the activities of the College of Health Sciences. He duly acknowledged the LOC for the work done. Dr. Wurapa stated that the ARM gives a true expression of the Research activities carried out in the Institute and again added that ARM together with Biennial meetings will serve the purpose of disease control and Research in Ghana.
In his closing remarks, Professor Nkrumah expressed his appreciation to Dr. Fred Wurapa for giving the keynote address on a short notice and to VW Foundation for their support. He mentioned the need for a mass of researchers, supporting staff, infrastructure, links to healthcare services and adequate funding for projects. His expectation was to have diverse presentations on diseases of public health concern and an exciting and educative debate at the end of the conference.
The opening ceremony was also graced by Her Excellency Claudia Turbay, Colombian Ambassador , Mr. Koji Makino, JICA Country Representative, Professor Peter Schmid Swiss TPH, University of Basel, Professor Gerd Pluschke Swiss TPH, University of Basel and Professor Thomas Junghanss University of Heidelberg, Germany
The meeting continued with presentations from various research areas with a goodwill message from Professor Badu Akosa on the second day.
A special debate also on the theme “is Ghana prepared for an outbreak of any deadly disease?” crowned the activities of the meeting. The team who spoke against the motion that Ghana is not prepared (Team B) emerged winners of the debate.
The meeting ended with awards given to young researchers who won the best Oral and Poster Presentations. This was to serve as a motivation and to equip them to excel in the field of research.
Prof. Francis Nkrumah & Mr. Richard Akuffo (Best Oral Presenter) Prof. Thomas Junghanss & Mr. Christopher Abana (Best Poster Presentation)
Dr. Ger Steenbergen (Embassy of The Netherlands) & Mr. Isaac Tuffour Prof. Gerd Pluschke (SWISS TPH) & Ms. Esinam Agbosu (3rd Best Poster Presentation)
( Representing Ms. Abena A. Kissi-Twum- 2nd Best Poster Presentation)
The meeting was well attended with over 300 participants comprising of Medical Researchers and Practitioners, Health Policy and Decision Makers, Disease Control Program Managers, health related NGOs, the Scientific Community, Universities, Media and the General Public in the country.