Long-term Europe-Africa Research Network

Project consortium and fund         

  • Prof. Dr. Jeroen Kortekaas (PI), Wageningen University Research, Wageningen, Netherlands: jeroen.kortekaas@wur.nl, – Funder: Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research (NWO), Ministry of Economic Affairs
  • Prof. Dr. Martin Groschup, Friedrich Loeffler Institut, Greifswald, Germany: martin.groschup@fli.de – Funder: German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF DLR/PT)
  • Prof. Dr. Wilfred Mbacham, University of Yaounde I, Yaounde, Cameroon: wfmbacham@yahoo.com – Funder: Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation (MINRESI)
  • Prof. Dr. Marietjie Venter, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa: u02504995@up.ac.za – Funder: National Research Foundation (NRF)

Thematic and geographic area of the project:    

  • Sustainable food security
  • Animal sciences
  • Pest and disease control
  • Rural development and agricultural economy

The LEARN project aims to reduce the impact of arboviruses on human and animal health. The project focuses on arboviruses that can severely affect the livestock sector and thereby threaten sustainable food security (Thematic area 1). The project also falls under “Animal sciences” as the project studies disease of animals (Thematic area 1). The ultimate objective of the LEARN project is to optimize disease control programs (Thematic area 2). More effective control of livestock diseases will facilitate rural development and the agricultural economy (Thematic area 3). 

Project’s summary/abstract:                    

Sustainable intensification of livestock systems is essential to feed the rapidly growing world population. One of the key principles of sustainable intensification is “resilience to future shocks and stresses of disease, pests, and climate change”. A major threat to livestock and/or human health in both Africa and Europe is posed by viruses that are transmitted by arthropods, mostly mosquitoes and midges. The Long-term Europe-African Research Network (LEARN) project will contribute to the preparedness of Europe and Africa for (re)emerging arboviruses through the development and implementation of serological tools for diagnoses and epidemiological investigations of neglected African arboviruses. Specifically, we will develop diagnostic assays to detect neglected arboviruses and use these assays to determine the distribution and impact of these arboviral threats. The latter will be facilitated by veterinary surveillance networks previously established by the LEARN partners in Africa. The knowledge that results from the project will be used to increase awareness of stakeholders and to provide incentives to develop vaccines.

Project’s main objective(s):                             

In the LEARN project, scientists from Africa will fill knowledge gaps that exist in Europe on the epidemiology and pathology of neglected arboviruses, whereas scientist from Europe will share their expertise on innovative technologies that can be used to develop diagnostic tools. The project will initiate with strengthening existing veterinary surveillance networks in Cameroon and South Africa. Novel serological assays will be developed and used for diagnoses and serosurveys of specimens collected in these networks. Newly developed diagnostic assays may be commercialized by Deltamune, the associated private partner. An additional objective of the project will be to teach and train students through exchange of MSc and PhD students between labs. We will organize lectures and workshops for students, scientists, farmers and policy makers to raise awareness for the diseases.

Theory of Change and Impact Pathway

Summary ToC with assumptions                         

Recent outbreaks of arboviral diseases in both Europe and Africa have demonstrated that both continents are poorly equipped to respond to arbovirus outbreaks. Diagnostic tests and vaccines are generally developed in response to outbreaks, explaining why these monitoring and control tools generally come too late. The LEARN consortium will increase the awareness of students, young scientists and policy makers about the threat that arboviruses pose to human and veterinary health. Using priorized arboviruses that belong to the three most important arbovirus families as models, we will train young scientists in detecting and controlling arboviruses using state of the art technologies. Thereby, the LEARN project will contribute to changing the way we control arbovirus outbreaks from reactive to proactive.   

Expected outcomes and impact:                          

The LEARN project will improve the preparedness of Europe and Africa for neglected arboviral diseases that compromise the sustainable intensification of livestock systems. Veterinarian networks in Africa will be strengthened, through which animal samples will be collected. Novel diagnostic assays will be developed and used to LEARN about the distribution of neglected arboviruses in the field. The resulting knowledge will be transferred back to the veterinarians and will furthermore be shared with students and researchers as well as with other stakeholders both in Africa and Europe. At the end of the project, both continents will be better prepared for arboviral diseases that are currently being neglected.