The Lab Teams:
"A Totally African Show"
Away from the fields and in the laboratory Mariame Diop monitors for signs of rinderpest infection. She is part of a core team in Senegal that works to keep this killer disease at bay. The IAEA successfully worked to gain international acceptance of the diagnostic kit she and other African lab technicians use to screen for the disease.
Biotechnology provided the technological platform to detect and identify viruses - and to monitor the effectiveness of vaccination campaigns. Instrumental to campaigns are tests known as "ELISAs" (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), a fundamental tool of clinical immunology. ELISA is the accepted test for international declarations of freedom from rinderpest of the Organization International of Epizootics (OIE), the world's animal health organization based in France. The diagnostic test provides effective sero-monitoring, which becomes especially important after vaccination and in the final stages of eradication campaigns.
Fast, cheap and reliable, the test gives Africa and other countries the muscle to fight the disease. It shows if an animal has been vaccinated and detects any pockets of remaining virus activity. With support from the IAEA's technical cooperation, dozens of African scientists were taught to use the technology through workshops and training courses. In turn Mariame and others helped train scientists from 30 African countries to use the diagnostic kits.
As importantly, the IAEA assisted Senegal to mass-produce the kits to supply to the region. "They can now produce the kits and set the price for them," says the kit's creator Professor Tilahun Yilma of the University of California-Davis.
Today Mariame and the team at Senegal's national veterinary lab can make the ELISA kits to supply to the region. In IAEA "programme-speak" the "technology is transferred". Or as one local proudly put it, "it's totally an African show".