One hundred thousand COVID-19 RT-PCR tests performed by the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge

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One hundred thousand COVID-19 RT-PCR tests performed by the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge

The Institut Pasteur du Cambodge (IPC) remains fully committed to working together with the Ministry of Health to combat COVID-19 in Cambodia. As of 26 October 2020, IPC has performed more than 100,000 (one hundred thousand) COVID-19 molecular diagnostic tests by RT-PCR in the Virology Unit. Those tests have contributed to the identification and/or confirmation of 290 (two hundred ninety) positive individuals reported by the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) to the World Health Organization (WHO) since the start of the pandemic.

IPC is a Cambodian non-for-profit research institution established in 1953. IPC carries out life science and health research on infectious diseases, and supports public health surveillance through high-quality laboratories and epidemiology/clinical research capacities. As a member of the Institut Pasteur International Network (IPIN), IPC also works closely with several national and international partners to further increase capacity and capability in Cambodia and beyond. The Virology Unit was established in
1995 and, since 2008, it hosts a high-level (BSL-3) biosafety laboratory with multiple diagnostic test capacities to identify and understand endemic and emerging infectious diseases.

IPC was prepared to test for COVID-19 by mid-January, 2020 and detected the first COVID-19 case on January 27th. In addition, IPC was integral in the response and testing of passengers from the MS Westerdam in February, 2020. In March 2020, scientists at IPC were able to successfully isolate the virus. In April 2020, IPC received designation as WHO Global Referral Laboratory for COVID-19, a crucial role in addressing the public health risks emerging from the global COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to routine molecular testing, IPC is also actively involved in global validation and verification of novel testing protocols and diagnostic kits for SARS-CoV-2, and in research projects facilitating the understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Molecular testing capacity continues to increase in Cambodia. The National Institute of Health (NIPH) began performing COVID-19 RT-PCR in May 2020, and, most recently, the provincial hospital in Siem Reap began testing using Cepheid GenXpert technology. Additional laboratory capacities for COVID-19 tests are coming online soon. IPC helps to support the training of laboratory personnel and works closely with WHO and other partners.

In parallel to direct RT-PCR tests, scientists at IPC implemented serology capacities for seroprevalence studies. On top of responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic and to current influenza (H3N2) and chikungunya epidemics, scientists at IPC continue vital research in Cambodia for a number of important infectious diseases (seasonal and avian influenza, dengue, malaria, HIV, tuberculosis, rabies, etc..), and for novel emerging zoonotic diseases, as well as other critical research projects (immunology, entomology). The maintenance of these research efforts is paramount to understand pathogens with high public health impact in Cambodia, the Great Mekong Sub-Region, and around the globe.

The Direction of the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge would sincerely like to thank: Dr. Veasna Duong (Head of Virology Unit), Dr. Erik Karlsson (Deputy Head, WHO Global Referral Laboratory coordinator), Dr HORM Srey Viseth (senior scientist), and all of the staff members who work on a 7 days a week basis since February for the benefit of the Cambodian population. The Institut Pasteur du Cambodge also thanks the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization, all development partners and donators for their
continued support

For more information:
info@pasteur-kh.org
Media contact:
jjaymond@pasteur-kh.org (English & French)
mnavy@pasteur-kh.org (Khmer and French)

Toward an integrated surveillance of potential zoonotic Betacoronaviruses in the wild animal value chain of Cambodia (ZooCoV)

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Blood sampling on the field, Mondolkiri Province, Cambodia - ©CV
Toward an integrated surveillance of potential zoonotic Betacoronaviruses in the wild animal value chain of Cambodia (ZooCoV)

The COVID-19 pandemic once again draws attention on zoonotic diseases and their impact on public health. Over the last 20 years three of the major epidemics (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome – SARS, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – MERS and the COVID-19) shows that potential transmission of pathogens from animal to humans are a serious threat to public health. More than 70% of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases events are caused by pathogens from wildlife origin, and among the pathogens responsible for these emergences, Coronaviruses (CoVs) are common and widely distributed broadly among humans, other mammals, and birds.

Dried Loris, Stung Treng Province, Cambodia – ©VC, 2020
Rat cages, Phnom Penh, Cambodia – © VC, 2020

Nevertheless, wildlife trade and bushmeat consumption remain popular throughout Southeast Asia, is important economically but also may increase the risk of transmission of pathogens from wildlife to humans. Therefore, the French Research Agency (ANR) and Region Occitanie jointly funded the ZooCoV international research project led by CIRAD (International Center of Research in Agronomy for Development) to better address the risk this trade and consumption practices represent for the local population in Cambodia. The project started in April 2020 for an initial period of 18 months.

The ZooCoV project, coordinated by Dr Veronique Chevalier (CIRAD) will be conducted in two provinces of Cambodia, Mondolkiri and Stung Treng. Its “One Health” approach implicates multidisciplinary actors at both local, national and international level such as the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Environment, the Forestry Administration, the Institut Pasteur du Cambodge, local authorities of the provinces where the study is deployed but also the Wildlife Conservation Society, Flora and Fauna International, the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD) and Hong Kong University.

All along this project the team will implement targeted sociological –interviews and direct observations, epidemiological and virologic surveys – sampling of both wildlife and people, in provinces of concern, to describe and analyse the wild animal value chains , to describe the diversity of betacoronaviruses the population could be exposed to, to characterize and quantify the risks of spill over and analyse the perception of these risks by the communities.

The ultimate goal is to provide new data and knowledge on wildlife trade in Cambodia, and contribute to enhance the existing Wildlife Health Surveillance System, and to early detect potential transmission of pathogens from animal to human that could represent a threat to public health.

For more information:
veronique.chevalier@cirad.fr
info@pasteur-kh.org
Media contact:
jjaymond@pasteur-kh.org (English & French)
mnavy@pasteur-kh.org (Khmer & French)