LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Britain’s international development ministry (DfID) and the Wellcome Trust launched a 6.5 million sterling appeal on Thursday for research on combating the Ebola virus, whose latest outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 1,350 people.
Experts worldwide were asked to come forward urgently with research proposals leading to more effective ways of managing the current outbreak, the worst on record, and controlling future outbreaks of the deadly virus.
“We are launching an emergency call for research to strengthen what we know about Ebola and how it spreads,” International Development Secretary Justine Greening said in a joint statement.
More than 1,350 people have died in the four countries hit by the outbreak – Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria - the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported.
Experts have said the outbreak is out of control and has overwhelmed the health services of Liberia and Sierra Leone, particularly that of Liberia, still struggling to recover from its civil war. Some neighbourhoods have been placed in quarantine to try to prevent the disease from spreading.
“The Ebola epidemic in West Africa demands an urgent response, and we believe rapid research into humanitarian interventions and therapeutics can have an impact on treatment and containment during the present outbreak,” Wellcome Trust director Jeremy Farrar said in a joint statement.
“What we learn could also change the way we approach future outbreaks, providing us with tested tools and techniques that were not available to public health authorities this time.”
The research initiative is jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s largest medical charities, and DfiD and projects will be managed by Enhancing Learning & Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA).
Funding will be awarded to teams that provide strong evidence and analysis on the disease in areas including anthropology, diagnosis, disease control and prevention, social mobilization and treatment.
Proposals will be reviewed immediately, and research projects that are approved will begin as soon as possible, the joint statement said.
(Editing by Tim Pearce; firstname.lastname@example.org)