Young Scientists

Doing experimental science in Africa : how to ? - 8. Alpha Kabinet Keita: in Guinea during the Ebola epidemics

The late diagnosis of the Ebola virus disease allowed it to spread to much of West Africa.

"The first cases of Ebola virus disease in Guinea appeared in October 2013.

Because of the lack of diagnosis, the disease continued to kill, and people, most of the time, said: "There is a mysterious disease that decimates people in this or that village." No one knew what it was, and the diagnosis was not made until March 2014.

And it was too late. The virus had already crossed borders, found its way to Liberia, Sierra Leone and even Mali, Nigeria a little further away with the health workers working at these sites.

By volunteering, I had the opportunity to be in charge of the laboratory of one of the most strategic treatment centres in the country, which was located in the south of the country, in forest Guinea, in the city of Macenta. It is a treatment centre that had been set up in cooperation between Guinea and France. It was managed by the Red Cross, and the laboratory was managed by the Institut Pasteur.

So for two months I was a volunteer in this laboratory and we were diagnosing Ebola virus disease. At that time, the number of cases was decreasing.

But above all, what was needed was active surveillance. All deaths and suspicious cases had to be monitored: all people with a fever above 38°C; all deaths within 500 kilometres were under the jurisdiction of this laboratory, and people were sampled. The samples were transported to this laboratory and the diagnosis was made.

I gained experience as a volunteer in a virology laboratory under extremely difficult conditions, working with a class 4 virus.

The research unit in which I work at IRD is the TransVIHMI unit, the translational research unit on HIV and infectious diseases. This unit had also embarked on post-Ebola projects. The most important project the unit developed in Guinea at the time was the monitoring of people who had been cured from Ebola disease."

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