The 2014 Ebola viral disease (EVD) epidemic in West Africa is unprecedented. The combination of urbanisation and a lack of a health infrastructure created a ‘perfect storm’ scenario, enabling levels of intense human-to-human transmission to occur that have previously never been observed. Despite international efforts, the epidemic continues ~12 months since the first suspected case with >20,000 confirmed cases. In addition to the urgent need to control the outbreak, it is essential that the scientific community learn from this epidemic, as continued urbanisation is likely to result in repeated introductions of Ebola and other highly pathogenic zoonotic viruses into the local population.
At present it is not possible for samples, amplicons or even nucleic acid extracts to be exported from Sierra Leone for analysis elsewhere. A small number of samples have previously been taken from Sierra Leone to enable sequencing externally, but Ministry of Health is keen to have its own capability nearer the point of infection. Good data is key to preventing spread of the diseases and supporting good public health in known high risk areas. There is an urgent need for in-country sequencing capabilities and the Centre for Global Health Research is supporting the efforts of Professor Ian Goodfellow in building national capacity for sequencing and infectious diseases training at Mekeni University in Sierra Leone. The project is in its early stage but the Centre hopes the concerted efforts of Cambridge University over a prolonged period will enhance the national capacity in infectious diseases of Sierra Leone.