Center for Tropical Diseases and Global Health (CTDGH).

Mission & objectives

The center’s vision is to promote evidence-based research to help find solutions to local and regional health problems with a global scope. The center also intends to improve teaching activities by providing an internship framework for students as well as research space and structured mentoring for graduate students (master’s and doctoral projects).

Lines of research

The center is opened to different types of research ranging from basic sciences to clinical research, operational research, implementation science and research synthesis to inform policy, emphasizing specificities to tropical settings. The following areas are considered priorities: (i) communicable diseases, (ii) non-communicable diseases, (iii) their interaction and (iv) a transversal domain, the socio-anthropology approach to understand how communities interpret health phenomena and what motivate their behavior.

– Communicable diseases

This first line focuses on research in various fields of infectious diseases as seen in the tropical region (Malaria, cholera, Tuberculosis, HIV, Hemorrhagic fever, COVID-19, etc). It includes the study of pathogens, vectors and potential reservoirs as well as the host response. A particular focus is being developed for the study of zoonosis in a One Health approach, a human-animal-environment interface. We also focus on implementing infection and prevention control units in health structures.

– Non-communicable diseases

This second line deals with research questions related to chronic and degenerative diseases, nutritional pathologies and their links with other health conditions. Here, studies investigate the interactions between both communicable and non-communicable diseases and their impacts on the quality of life. We also focus on the risk attributable of emerging risk factors such as air pollution on the current burden of the aforementioned diseases.

Ongoing research activities

* The Center harbors a Mycobacteriology unit where molecular techniques are used to detect multidrug resistant tuberculosis for the first and second lines regimens (Hain Test) and on the way to implement Thin Layer Agar (TLA) for mycobacterial culture in a Biosafety level 2 (BSL2) laboratory. This work is done in collaboration with the National Tuberculosis program of the DRC. A PhD student is carrying out this project and will soon be joined by a master student who will work on a subset of the project. The implementation of the TLA technique will be funded partly by the Institute of Tropical Medicine of Antwerp. The project will also map the MDR strains circulating in the Great Lake region in collaboration with the Rwanda Biomedical Center.  The PhD student is partly funded by Ghent University.

* Research activities are being implemented to study specificities of tuberculosis among artisanal miners, and also looking at the impact of household air pollution on the clinical evolution of patients with tuberculosis and HIV-infection.

* Another active unit focuses its research work on Cholera and other enteric pathogens. It is about to start an RCT to study the best way to prevent secondary infections from a household with a confirmed case. This work is being done in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University with a grant from the Wellcome Trust.

* In line with the surveillance of arboviruses, a master student is currently looking at antibodies anti-Dengue in sera collected from the region. This work brings together researchers from UCB and their colleagues from the University of Nairobi.

* Currently, the surveillance of some zoonosis includes the screening of mycobacteria (tuberculosis complex and non-tuberculosis) among human and non-human primates, antibodies anti Leptospira spp, and those anti SARS Cov-2 (COVID-19).

* The Center hosts the provincial laboratory for molecular diagnosis of SARS-Cov-2 under the Ministry of health and actively contributes to the national and regional response to the on-going pandemic.

* Regarding the diagnosis of malaria during pregnancy, researchers from UCB and their colleagues from the University of Nairobi are assessing the performances of histine rich protein 2 (HRP2) based rapid diagnostic test against polymerase chain reaction during pregnancy in South Kivu

* In collaboration with Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the African Research Collaboration on Sepsis, the center is participating along with ten other African countries in the BASIS project to determine the baseline incidence of sepsis in Africa.

* Regarding the interaction “Infection-Nutrition”, following research done for his PhD on the same topic, a postdoc fellow is working on the effect of malaria and micronutrients status (iron, zinc, vitamin A) on anemia among preschool children and women of childbearing age.

* With the Center for Global Health at the University of Colorado, a collaboration is about to start for the assessment of serologic tests currently being used in Bukavu

* Working with Glyconics, a British society specialized in diagnostics innovation, researchers from UCB will test in the field the prototype of a pioneer portable machine to diagnose diabetes at a low cost and without collecting blood sample

* Another project will soon bring together UCB & Johns Hopkins University to study determinants of acceptance by people in Bukavu of public health & social measures introduced by the Government of the DRC against COVID-19 pandemic.