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Institute of Novel and Emerging Infectious Diseases (INNT

Reduction of biological proliferation risks during handling highly pathogenic agents in Tunisia (extendable to other MENA countries: Middle East/ North Africa" with Tunisia as a regional hub)


Duration: 01.01.2023 – 31.12.2025

Funding: Federal Foreign Office

In the North African countries involved in this project, the situation of public veterinary and public health services is struggling. Many formerly existing structures and links have been restructured in the countries and are not yet functioning efficiently.

This situation leads to the fact that especially the veterinary and human medical handling of diseases caused by biological agents and pathogens of risk group 3 is far from an internationally acceptable level. This concerns the diagnostic possibilities, the handling of sick or infected patients, the control of zoonotic animal diseases as well as the handling of the pathogens themselves. The possibilities of conclusive detection of highly pathogenic pathogens in the laboratory are qualitatively and quantitatively limited. I.e. the existing diagnostic possibilities are not adequate to be able to identify possible hazardous situations quickly. In some cases, biological agents must be often sent to European laboratories (including FLI) for further characterization (e.g. NGS) after the initial detection, which can lead to a long delay due to logistical problems.

The geographical proximity to flashpoints in the region significantly increases the risk potential. This project initially aims to use existing contacts to strengthen the ability to detect and diagnose highly pathogenic bacterial and viral pathogens in veterinary partner institutions in Tunisia (École nationale de médecine vétérinaire de Sidi Thabet). From project year 2, it is planned to include Morocco, Algeria and Egypt (belong to MENA) in these activities. Through joint activities in the project, the institutions in the different countries will improve networking and thus coordination on biosafety risks such as the potential misuse of pathogens will also increasingly take place between the countries. In addition, scientific cooperation will be documented through joint scientific publications and a trustful and consolidated exchange will have been established in the field of biosafety.



INNT scientists involved:

Prof. Dr. Martin H. Groschup
Dr. Kerstin Fischer
Dr. Markus Keller

Postdocs involved:

Dr. Ansgar Schulz

Project partner:

Prof. Mohamed Gharbi
École nationale de médecine vétérinaire de Sidi Thabet

Prof. Médiha Khamassi
École nationale de médecine vétérinaire de Sidi Thabet