Africa Academy of Science institutes $2.8m COVID-19 research fund

The Africa Academy of Science (AAS) and its partners have mobilized a total of $2.8 million to support key research priority areas across the African continent to help contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic outbreak.

The priority research areas were identified by 844 researchers in the field of biomedical science, clinical, epidemiology, social science, policymakers, and infectious disease through a survey organised by the AAS on COVID-19.

Madam Juliette Mutheu-Asego, the Head of Communications and Public Relations at AAS, speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview said the Academy would in the coming days issue a call to invite researchers to apply to the funds to conduct studies in the priority areas.

The key research areas, she stated included; understanding the effectiveness of movement control strategies to prevent secondary transmission in health care and community settings, develop new Personal Protective Equipment approaches using local materials and manufacturing processes.

She said the study flagged high the issues of researching into the conduct of rapid population cross-sectional surveys to establish the extent of virus transmission using a standardized sampling framework.

Madam Mutheu-Asego said the survey recommended a special focus should be given to potentially at-risk groups including; malnourished individuals and people with HIV, TB Sickle Cell.

She said it highlighted the development of protocols for the management of severe disease in the absence of intensive care facilities, determine optimal clinical practice strategies to improve the processes of care, and develop innovative approaches to use as alternatives to ventilation.

The survey conducted in April, she noted flagged the examining of optimal ways of communicating about potential interventions in high-density low socio-economic status urban settings and ensures that knowledge was produced according to local, national and regional needs.

The African Academy of Sciences, she said recognizes the speed and urgency that was required to build a scientific body of knowledge required to inform current outbreak mitigation policies.

“Bearing in mind the limited time and resources available, the AAS is developing a credible research and development advisory that informs a coherent response backed by robust priorities for the continent to be ahead of the Covid-19 pandemic,” she noted.

The initiative was to complement the work of the World Health Organisation and recently established Africa TaskForce for Novel Coronavirus under the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention that seeks to oversee preparedness and response to COVID-19.

Professor Kwadwo Koram, the Immediate past Director of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) said the findings of the survey were curial to containing and reducing the spread of the pandemic.

He said a priority area such as ascertaining the transmission dynamics of COVID-19 and understand the spread of disease nationally and regionally was on the radar of NMIMR and needed funding to undertake a study in that area.

Prof Koram noted that with the needed support, a study could be done to describe the severity and susceptibility of the disease to facilitate effective clinical and public health response to COVID-19 identify groups at high risk of severe infection.

He recalled that scientists NMIMR and West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens both at the University of Ghana have obtained information about the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected many countries globally.

The breakthrough would enable scientists to understand how the genome works – how genes work together to direct the growth, development, and maintenance of an entire organism.

Source: GNA

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