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Scientists in Burkina Faso Prepare for Potential Zoonotic Disease Outbreaks with IAEA Support


Amadou Dicko, Minister Delegate for Animal Resources of Burkina Faso, chairs the opening of a training course under the IAEA's ZODIAC initiative. (Photo: Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation)

Scientists in Burkina Faso have been trained in biosafety practices in the latest of almost 20 courses delivered under the IAEA’s Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action initiative, or ZODIAC. The courses, delivered over the last two years, were designed to build the capacity of veterinary laboratories, and were implemented through the IAEA technical cooperation programme and Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture. To detect and track the outbreak of zoonotic diseases, scientists at veterinary laboratories collect, transport and process samples that can potentially contain zoonotic pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses. 

By following established procedures for the collection, transport, processing, analysis and storage of samples, scientists can better protect people and the environment from zoonotic diseases, which can be potentially transmitted from infected animals to humans. Zoonotic diseases like COVID-19, Ebola and monkeypox can spread quickly from person to person, underscoring the importance of maintaining high standards of biosafety practices. 

“I welcome this initiative to ensure the safety and security of veterinary laboratories. I hope that participants will follow the training with interest and gain valuable professional competencies for the performance of their duties,” said Minister Delegate for Animal Resources of Burkina Faso, Amadou Dicko, in his opening remarks at the training course.  

Lectures and interactive sessions, moderated by national experts from the Health Sciences Research Institute and the Department of Medical Biology Laboratories of Burkina Faso, gave course participants a comprehensive overview of biosafety and biosecurity considerations for veterinary laboratories. The training covered each stage of analysis, from sampling and transport to storage and waste management. Scientists built practical skills on a variety of areas, including the use of personal protective equipment and how to manage biomedical waste and potential spills. 

In 2024, veterinary scientists gained practical knowledge on biosafety and biosecurity at an IAEA training course in Ouagadougou. (Photo: Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation)

According to the World Health Organization, zoonotic disease outbreaks in Africa have more than doubled in the last ten years when compared to the previous decade. Building on lessons learned during the IAEA’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, the ZODIAC initiative was set up in June 2020 to establish a worldwide network of national laboratories. It also strengthens their technical capacities and capabilities to enable them to use conventional and innovative technologies for the early detection and characterization of zoonotic pathogens in animals, in a safe and secure manner. 

“The ZODIAC initiative of the IAEA is very important for us and many other veterinary laboratories around the world. As many countries, Burkina Faso has benefitted from trainings and provision of equipment to strengthen our capacities to detect and identify animal and zoonotic diseases. This national training has been organized to share the knowledge and expertise acquired on biosafety and biosecurity with all the national actors involved. It aims at strengthening their resilience to fight more efficiently against future possible zoonotic outbreaks”, said the course director, Arnaud Stéphane Tapsoba, who is also the national coordinator of the related regional IAEA technical cooperation project. 

In addition to building the capacities of laboratories, the ZODIAC initiative also aims to bring national staff together through regional and interregional training courses and other activities, providing a capacity building and practice network. So far, 128 countries have designated ZODIAC National Laboratories, and 150 countries have designated ZODIAC National Coordinators to serve as focal points.  

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