7. February 2022 | Press releases:

Protection and training against highly infectious pathogens Establishment of a Centre of Excellence for infection prevention in Rwanda

Ebola, Lassa, Marburg virus – in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous African countries are still affected by other highly contagious pathogens that can trigger life-threatening diseases. In order to be able to react effectively and quickly to infections, local health systems are to be strengthened. This goal is now being pursued with the establishment of a Centre of Excellence in Rwanda – in a joint project of Technische Universität Braunschweig, the Robert Koch Institute, the Charité Berlin, the Medical Mission Institute Würzburg and the Rwanda Biomedical Centre.

Despite all the achievements of the Rwandan health system in recent years, there remain major challenges in infection prevention and control in the East African country: for example, there is a lack of designated treatment facilities for patients who are ill due to highly infectious pathogens, as well as a special training programme for medical staff in this area. For the pathogens mentioned above, even individual cases must be detected, isolated and treated appropriately as early as possible. Even a few infections can overwhelm inadequately prepared health systems. Moreover, rapid on-site outbreak control largely reduces the risk of the pathogens being carried to other regions of the world.

Special Isolation Station and Training Centre

This is where the “EFFO-CoE” project, funded by the Federal Ministry of Health, comes in, in which the Institute of Construction Design, Industrial and Health Care Building (IKE) at TU Braunschweig is responsible for all planning tasks: the planned Centre of Excellence (CoE) will serve as a Special Isolation Station (SIS) and as a training centre for healthcare workers. It will be built near a large hospital in the Rwandan capital Kigali. On the one hand, specialised staff will be on site, and on the other hand, existing equipment can be used.

“I very much welcome our university’s involvement in this international project,” says TU Braunschweig President Professor Angela Ittel. “I fully support the scientific exchange and networking within the framework of the ‘Global Health Protection Programme’ to improve international health. The research on structural infection prevention of the Institute of Construction Design, Industrial and Health Care Building makes a necessary contribution here to overcoming current societal challenges.”

IKE will prepare the design and construction planning

The Special Isolation Station will primarily treat so-called HCID cases, i.e. people infected with highly pathogenic pathogens (high consequence infectious diseases, HCID). With the Centre of Excellence, the project partners want to enable high standards in the isolation, care and treatment of patients. The training centre will train health care workers in the treatment of HCID patients in the isolation station as well as in other health care facilities. This will also improve the networking of health infrastructures and staff.

In close coordination with the project partners from Germany and Rwanda, the Institute of Construction Design, Industrial and Health Care Building (IKE) will prepare the design and construction planning for the Centre of Excellence. As early as 2019, the team led by Dr Wolfgang Sunder supported the “EFFO-HCF” project for structural infection prevention and completed several isolation stations in the country. “We are very pleased to be able to contribute our many years of experience in the field of healthcare construction and structural infection prevention to this highly relevant project. The focus of our work is on the best possible care for the patients and optimal work processes for the staff,” says Dr Wolfgang Sunder. In intensive exchange with the Rwandan and German partners, the planning should be completed by the end of this year. Completion and launch are planned for the end of 2024.

Project data

The Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) is funding the “EFFO-CoE (Efficiency by Edification – Center of Excellence)” project to improve infection prevention and control in health care facilities in Rwanda with around 4.9 million euros until November 2024. The project is coordinated by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) under the leadership of Dr Thomas Kratz. In addition to TU Braunschweig, the collaborative partners are the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) in Rwanda, the Institute for Tropical Medicine and International Health at the Charité Berlin, the STAKOB/Special Isolation Station Charité Berlin and the Missionary Medical Institute Würzburg (MIW). Associated partners in the project include WHO Africa, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Alliance for Medical Action (ALIMA).

EFFO – Efficiency through Further Training

EFFO was developed in 2014 by German, Burkinabe and Senegalese experts. The project was prompted by the devastating Ebola epidemic in West Africa from 2013 to 2016 and focuses on combating the Ebola virus and strengthening health structures through professional training of medical staff. Since the beginning of the Corona pandemic, EFFO has been in exchange with the project partners on COVID-19. The locally trained EFFO trainers are now also using their knowledge and experience from the Ebola trainings in the context of COVID-19. Together with the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), work is being done to expand their cooperation beyond Ebola and COVID-19 and thus strengthen the health system for future outbreaks in the long term. Since 2016, the project has been an integral part of the BMG’s Global Health Protection Programme.

Further information on the EFFO project can be found here: https://effo.rki.de