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Dr. Philippe Dussart (PharmD, PhD) – Institut Pasteur du Cambodge
In December 2014, Dr Philippe Dussart was appointed Head of the Virology Unit at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge. Prior to working in Cambodia, he worked at the Institut Pasteur in French Guiana (South America), where he was the Head of a National Reference Laboratory for arboviruses and influenza and was mainly responsible for regional surveillance, improving diagnostic tools for dengue virus infection and participating in studies that aimed to describe the circulation of arboviruses within the wild mammals in French Guiana. In the light of an event that occurred in French Guiana, Dr. Dussart is convinced about the importance of bringing the human, animal and environmental elements together: in 2008, French Guiana saw an isolated human case of rabies. Emergence of this first human case in this French Overseas Department represented a public health event that markedly affected the local population, healthcare workers and public health authorities. A rigorous epidemiological investigation with a close collaboration with the animal sector was conducted to identify the contamination source and the exposed population. Communication was a key factor to controlling this episode and changing the local perception of this neglected disease.
According to Dr. Dussart, bringing all sectors together around the LACANET project is a dynamic that is already happening and will go beyond the project itself, since we can already notice strong ties between stakeholders. As an example, a zoonotic technical working group is already monthly gathering together the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Cambodian National Veterinary Research Institute, the Cambodian Ministry of Health’s Department of Communicable Disease Control, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, where stakeholders can discuss their projects and share knowledge about various issues. To Dr. Dussart, this vehicle can surely help promote the LACANET project, which will, in return, include more institutions from the environmental sector; since the environmental sector has already become crucial in the fight against new emerging viruses.
Dr. Paul Horwood – Institut Pasteur du Cambodge
Dr. Paul Horwood completed his Ph.D. in 2005 at James Cook University (Australia), investigating the virulence factors associated with the food poisoning bacterium Bacillus Cereus. Subsequently, he commenced postdoctoral studies with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries to study the molecular epidemiology of bovine respiratory disease in cattle. In 2010 (until Dec 2013), Paul joined the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (in Goroka, Papua New Guinea) where he was Head of the Environmental and Emerging Diseases Unit. Paul is currently the Deputy-Head of the Virology Unit at the Pasteur Institute in Cambodia (Institut Pasteur du Cambodge). His research is focused on emerging infectious diseases in tropical developing countries.
To Dr. Horwood, South East Asia has everything to benefit from the One Health LACANET project. Recent outbreaks and pandemics from diseases such as influenza H1N1pdm, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, avian influenza (H5N1 and H7N9) and Ebola virus have highlighted that zoonotic diseases have the potential for major impacts on human populations. Only through collaboration between the three sectors of One-Health can we effectively mitigate and respond to the threat from these novel pathogens. The influenza A/H5N1 situation in South East Asia is a good example of a disease where a ‘One-Health’ approach is greatly needed. The virus can be spread over long distances by migrating ducks and waders. Mingling of these birds with domestic ducks and chickens can introduce the virus to poultry populations. Subsequently, close contact with infected poultry can lead to severe illnesses (and often death) in humans. All One-Health sectors need to work together to combat this important disease.
Dr. Horwood is very pleased the LACANET project has facilitated greater collaboration and communication between the three sectors of One-Health in both of the target countries. He further notices that improved integration of the wildlife sector into zoonotic disease surveillance activities has been a very positive outcome.
Dr. Duong Veasna – Institut Pasteur du Cambodge
Dr. Duong Veasna is a medical doctor, medical biologist and virologist. He obtained his PhD in 2011 from the University of Montpellier 2. However, soon after finishing his Master’s in Vientiane, in 2005, he had already started a career at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge, which granted him with the opportunity to be involved in an FP6 European project, called DENFRAME, that aimed to detect asymptomatic dengue infections. This experience was repeated in 2012, with the DENFREE project, funded by the European Union (FP7 project) and focusing on the role of asymptomatic dengue infection in transmission of the virus. In parallel to these projects, Dr. Duong Veasna has also worked on the PREDICT project since the onset of its first phase (PREDICT 1), which provided him with a thorough experience of working with all three One-Health sectors. He is now also working on the second round of PREDICT (PREDICT 2), which is funded by USAID and involves IPC, National Veterinary Research Institute, Wildlife Conservation Society, Forestry Administration, Center for Disease Control, Ministry of Health, Cambodia and Food and Agriculture Organization to monitor potential pathogens that may emerge and cause outbreaks. Dr. Duong’s main research activities are currently focused on arboviruses and zoonoses.
Dr. Duong recalls that there have already been many attempts in bringing the human, animal and environmental sectors together around one same project, with more or less successful stories. With the deadly outbreak of highly pathogenic viruses like SARS, MERS-CoV, A(H5N1) and Ebola, the One Health concept becomes even more meaningful to every sector and has proved that only bringing the three sectors together can enable a quick response to any potential outbreak and effectively provide prevention measures before any outbreak may start. Dr. Duong forecasts that the LACANET project will be one of these success stories. He is convinced that once properly implemented, the One Health concept will protect and save millions of current and future lives from any deadly outbreaks.
With the success of PREDICT project in bringing different Cambodian health sectors to work together, LACANET will continue to improve these relationships and help develop better surveillance and detection systems, and therefore prevent emerging pathogens from causing outbreaks in the country as well as in the region.
Ms. Sapho Briand – Institut Pasteur du Cambodge
Ms. Sapho Briand’s interest in East Asia developed very early, as she started learning Chinese when she was 14. After a few working and study experiences in Asia and the completion of a Master’s degree in East Asian Regional Development from the University of Leeds (United Kingdom), Ms. Briand arrived in Cambodia in 2012 to work on a French-Cambodian-Lao P.D.R. multilateral development project for the French research institute Institut de Recherche pour le Développement. Since April 2015, she acts as the One Health LACANET project manager, while being based at the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge. Although Ms. Briand’s daily tasks are mostly focused on administration and budget management, science communication activities also represent an important part of her job, and this is where her enthusiasm for environmental matters and cross-disciplinary strategies come into play. Contributing to a project that has already proven useful and promising in monitoring and counteracting existing and new emerging epidemics in South East Asia makes her very contented. She is hoping the findings discovered as part of the One Health LACANET project will be fully assessed and that appropriate measures will be taken by regional and national authorities.