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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Columbia’s Center for Infection and Immunity Partners with Bangladesh on Pathogen Surveillance

Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) and John Snow Professor of Epidemiology, at the Mailman School of Public Health, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, extending the Center’s effort to forge international partnerships to improve population health.

[Photo: Dean Fried (bottom left), Dr. Lipkin (bottom right), with representatives from Bangladesh and CII]

The Bangladeshi agreement represents a commitment to collaborate on surveillance and discovery of novel zoonotic (animal-borne) pathogens in humans, including viruses that may emerge from contact with bats. At the informal signing ceremony, Mailman School Dean Linda P. Fried joined Lipkin as did representatives of the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, based in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“This agreement follows years of planning and collaboration with peer public health researchers in Bangladesh,” said Dr. Lipkin following the ceremony. “Scientists at the Center have worked for many years on surveys of bat-related illnesses in other countries. We are enthusiastic about forging a new partnership with Bangladesh.”

The agreement with Bangladesh follows on the heels of an MOU signed by CII and the Saudi government in February to conduct surveillance and diagnosis of infectious diseases including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and a 2013 agreement with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct surveillance, identify new infectious microbes, establish novel platforms for diagnostics, and develop drugs and vaccines to treat diseases in humans and animals. As part of the Bangladesh agreement, CII will perform laboratory testing of samples using polymerase chain reaction and blood serum assays to determine the presence of novel pathogens.

Among the poorest countries in the world, Bangladesh is marked by chronic malnutrition, faulty water and sanitation systems, and the highest infant mortality rate in Asia. It is also among the most densely populated, and populous, countries on the planet. The emergence of zoonotic viruses in Bangladesh could augur an almost immediate threat to regional stability and world health.