The Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at the Mailman School of Public Health and the Department of Agriculture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has formalized a $2.8 million agreement to train scientists in advanced methods for diagnosis and surveillance of infectious diseases, including the Middle East Respiratory Virus, better known as MERS, which has infected 965 people, of whom 357 have died.
“Since the start of the MERS outbreak in 2012, we have worked closely with Saudi scientists to determine the animal origins of MERS. This agreement will ensure that scientists there have the specialized training needed to address the ongoing outbreak and build the country’s capacity to face other infectious threats in the future,” said Dr. W. Ian Lipkin, director of CII and John Snow Profesor of Epidemiology at the Mailman School.
Over the next two years, CII faculty in New York will provide classroom and practical, hands-on training for twelve Saudi scientists in methods for detecting infectious agents. In addition, CII will provide onsite technical support for Saudi laboratories and training for technicians.
CII and Saudi scientists were the first to report evidence of MERS coronavirus in bats and camels. Their findings led to interventions that have reduced the risk of new transmission to humans. As part of the new two-year agreement, CII will continue to study MERS in Saudi Arabia to determine whether the virus is carried in pets, including dogs and cats.
Dr. Lipkin and Mr. Sami S. Alnohait, assistant deputy minister for animal resources in the Saudi Ministry of Agriculture, signed the agreement on February 10.