New training started on conducting clinical research during disease outbreaks

TDR news item
29 March 2017

The 2015 Ebola virus outbreak in western Africa exposed a major gap in research capacity that TDR is working to fill with partners. A new training curriculum ̶ Clinical Research During Outbreaks (CREDO) – is being developed to strengthen capacity of research teams in low- and middle-income countries to conduct clinical research on emerging and epidemic-prone infectious diseases, and generate the evidence needed by clinicians and public health authorities.

CREDO workshop participants
CREDO workshop participants
Credit: UVRI

The challenges of clinical research during outbreaks cannot be adequately met by current ways of doing research, which usually require long lead-times, predictable epidemiology and fixed research assets. The unpredictable nature of outbreaks requires methods and tools that are designed to meet these challenges and are established in the countries where these outbreaks are likely.

CREDO uses a learning approach that blends face-to-face teaching and on-line training tools. The training modules cover: ‘evidence-based’ medicine for epidemic infections; rapid ‘evidence-needs’ appraisal; research study planning; study design; logistics and operational planning; data management; ethics; communications and engagement; special groups (children, pregnant women, mother/child); and good clinical practices.

The first workshop was hosted 9-10 March 2017 by the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) in Entebbe, just 15 kilometres from the forest where the Zika virus was first isolated in 1947. There were four multi-disciplinary teams from Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana and Uganda in attendance. The initial workshop is being used to refine the content and delivery of the curriculum through participant feedback, and will be followed by the participants completing the on-line modules and a second and final workshop in Addis Ababa 12-13 July 2017.

Seeking additional partners and support

The programme is being developed by the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC), TDR, the University of Oxford and the UK Public Health Rapid Support team, funded by the UK Government.

Ebola outbreak in Liberia
Ebola outbreak in Liberia
Credit: WHO /Aphaluck Bhatiasevi

Developers of this curriculum would like to hear from stakeholders and potential new partners interested in helping to ensure wider, long-term accessibility to this training resource. TDR senior scientist Piero Olliaro, who was involved in one of the clinical trials during the Ebola outbreak, experienced firsthand the need for this kind of training.

“Ebola had a devastating effect, and it’s just one disease,” Olliaro cautions. “We know there will be more infectious disease outbreaks. We simply cannot wait until we are in the midst of an emergency to conduct vital clinical trials for new treatments. We have to prepare now, and that means developing strong, sustainable capacity in the countries that are the most vulnerable for these outbreaks to occur.”

For more information, please contact Piero Olliaro at TDR or Peter Horby at the University of Oxford.