UK-PHRST: The UK's novel approach to outbreak response

Jonathan W. Ashcroft, Ben W. Gannon

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)138
    Number of pages1
    JournalMicrobiology Today
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    To address these concerns the an LMIC government or in support of UK Public Health Rapid Support UK-Emergency Medical Teams (UK-EMT) Team (UK-PHRST), funded by or other international stakeholders, UK Aid from the Department of Health all within 48 h of a formal request. To and Social Care, was formed. The date, the UK-PHRST has responded to UK-PHRST is a collaboration between a wide array of requests for support Public Health England and the London for an outbreak response, including School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, to Madagascar (pneumonic plague), with the University of Oxford and Kings the Democratic Republic of the Congo College London as academic partners. (Ebola virus disease), Nigeria (Lassa The UK-PHRST has a novel triple fever), Bangladesh (diphtheria), Nigeria mandate to work in low-and middle-(meningitis), Ethiopia (acute watery income countries (LMICs) to carry out the diarrhoea/cholera) and Sierra Leone following tasks: (enhanced surveillance for waterborne 1. Respond to outbreaks. disease after heavy rains and landslides). 2. Conduct innovative research on In addition to providing rapid and outbreak-prone diseases both during robust outbreak responses, the UK-and between outbreaks in order to PHRST also implements and supports a generate evidence on best practice. range of research and capacity-building 3. Build capacity for LMIC outbreak projects. The challenge is to make these response. two aspects work synergistically, thus The UK-PHRST has taken a unique helping to not only provide answers to approach in fulfilling its tripartite important research questions, but also to mandate by tackling outbreaks and concurrently build in-country outbreak-outbreak-associated activities in a holistic related research and diagnostic capacity. manner. This has been achieved via the Examples of research projects with recruitment of a multidisciplinary core capacity-building elements currently deployable team of experts consisting underway include effective diagnostics of microbiologists, epidemiologists, and laboratory outbreak capability for clinical researchers, social scientists, gastrointestinal pathogens in Sierra data scientists, infection prevention Leone; application of metagenomics to and control experts and logisticians – outbreaks of undifferentiated febrile each specialisation adding knowledge, illness in Sudan; identification by TaqMan practical skills and technical expertise array card system and MinION sequencing to help tackle dynamic problems in the of co-circulating pathogens that are field. The UK-PHRST is a member of clinically indistinguishable from Lassa the World Health Organization’s (WHO) fever during seasonal Lassa outbreaks in Global Outbreak Alert and Response Nigeria; phylogenetic and cluster analysis Network (GOARN) and can deploy under of human monkeypox samples from the their processes, via direct requests from 2018–19 outbreak in Nigeria and rapid

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