High-level emergency regional meeting on Mpox: A united front against a growing health threat in Africa

Published On: April 22, 2024

As Mpox continues to pose significant challenges across Africa, the recent high-level emergency regional meeting convened by the DRC Ministry of Health, Hygiene and Prevention, the Africa CDC, and WHO AFRO has marked a pivotal moment in our collective response.

At this three-day meeting, health leaders and partners have expressed general concern about a more rapid spread of the virus than previously observed on the continent, underscoring the urgency of fostering a robust, unified strategy to combat this escalating health crisis.

Bridging gaps in the response: A community-centered and research-driven approach

It is now evident that our fight against Mpox is hampered by critical limitations in access to essential medical countermeasures, including diagnostics, treatments, vaccines and other tools for early detection, including children who currently face a disproportionate burden of the disease.

It was highlighted that “outbreaks start and end in the communities”. There is currently no effective treatment for patients, especially children, who represent 70’% of cases and 80% of mortality cases.

During outbreaks, research is intertwined with care. Solutions need to be found rapidly, and it is a race against the clock as the disease spreads and crosses borders undiagnosed. Speed is, therefore, of the essence.

Therefore, PANTHER (The Pandemic preparedness platform for health emerging infections response) welcomes the parties’ resolve to promote a ‘One Health’ approach that encompasses a community-centered response mechanism and the establishment of the Africa Taskforce for Mpox Coordination.

This approach will contribute to prioritizing and accelerating scientific research and development, ensuring equitable access to safe and effective countermeasures, and supporting evidence-based decision-making for disease prevention and control.

Dr. Nathalie Strub-Wourgaft attending the High-level emergency meeting in Kinshasa.

MOSA: Pioneering collaborative clinical trials for Mpox in Africa

In the final communiqué, African ministers and their international partners stressed the importance to “collaborate and accelerate and regulatory processes for the development, and ensure equitable access to safe, effective and quality countermeasures” (1.g). Furthermore, they decided to “establish the Africa Taskforce for Mpox Coordination to… prioritize scientific research and evidence synthesis for a better understanding of the disease, and support evidence-based decision-making for disease prevention and control.” (5.d.)

These commitments underscore the necessity of a multi-country clinical investigation platform to enhance collaboration and streamline data sharing and management. This will improve the efficiency of clinical trials and contribute to faster development of effective treatments.

Such a platform already exists in Africa. With our partners, we set up MOSA, a platform adaptive trial in which various treatments will be evaluated—starting with tecovirimat in outpatients, derived from the WHO  ‘CORE protocol’.

Regulatory authorities and Ethics Committees from Benin, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, have already reviewed MOSA through the AVAREF joint review process.

Aligned with the WHA Resolution 75.8 on clinical trials, such a platform will centralize data collection, ensuring integrity and security while also facilitating communication between researchers, clinicians, and participants on the continent. It is designed to enhance the efficiency and adaptability of clinical trials in each affected country (or locality), taking into account regional specificities such as age, disease clade, comorbidities, HIV, access to healthcare, broadening participant recruitment and improving retention through better engagement and remote monitoring options. The platform will support the discovery of new insights and aid in rapidly developing appropriate countermeasures. Decision-makers can use the generated data to guide country policy decisions.

As we move forward, it is crucial that all stakeholders, including governments, African investment institutions, and global partners, come together to invest in and advance these efforts. Our goal is not only to curb the current outbreak but also to strengthen our preparedness for future health emergencies.

This meeting has not only highlighted the challenges but also charted a course towards a more resilient health infrastructure in Africa. Together, we can ensure that our responses are as swift as they are effective, preventing further death and suffering caused by Mpox and safeguarding the health of our communities.

Click here to read Africa CDC’s communiqué