Ebola virus comment from Peter Piot and how LSHTM is helping control the outbreak

On 8 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) was notified by the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo of two lab-confirmed cases of Ebola Virus Disease occurring in Bikoro.

Here, LSHTM Director Professor Peter Piot, who was part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, gives his reaction to the news that cases have now been found in the city of Mbandaka, an Ebola vaccine to help stop the spread of the disease is to be deployed for the first time, and the World Health Organization’s announcement that the current situation does not constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Professor Piot said: “The response to this outbreak has been swift and rigorous - lessons have been learnt from the 2014 outbreak in West Africa. However, as the IHR Emergency Committee has stated, effective engagement with communities is essential, the DRC, and its neighbours, must be fully supported, and efforts must be coordinated. Above all, we must be extremely vigilant.

“The situation in the DRC remains concerning. However, with two vaccines available, DRC health officials’ strong track record of containing Ebola outbreaks, and with support from the global community, such as the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team, I’m hopeful the outbreak will be brought under control soon.”

LSHTM expertise is helping to tackle the outbreak in several ways.

The UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST) deploying to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help control the outbreak is jointly run by LSHTM and Public Health England, and funded by the UK Government. LSHTM’s Hilary Bower and Patrick Keating are among the team being deployed.

LSHTM helped design the trial that showed the Ebola vaccine due to be rolled out, rVSV-ZEBOV, was safe and effective, and supported clinical studies of another vaccine that could potentially be deployed during this outbreak.

The LSHTM Open Research Kit team has been working with the WHO and UK PHRST, using its new Emergency and Epidemic Data Kit to develop the electronic data collection forms, encrypted servers and reporting mechanisms that will be used in the rollout of the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine.