Ciro Oiticica e Cristina Azevedo (Fiocruz News Agency)
For three consecutive mornings in Brazil, or three nights on the other side of the world, in China, the CAS-Fiocruz webinar on Infectous Diseases brought together researchers from the Foundation and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to exchange information on topics such as COVID-19, vaccines, zika, dengue, and other diseases common to both sides of the globe. The webinar took place on December 14th, 15th, and 16th.
The event opening, on Wednesday (12/14), was held by the president of Fiocruz, Nísia Trindade Lima, and the vice-president of CAS, Zhang Yaping. Nísia and Zhang highlighted the recent history of cooperation in health and science between the two countries. "The event is an important step in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) implementation signed between CAS and Fiocruz in 2018," Zhang stressed.
Nísia stressed the importance of collaboration with CAS, with all the Chinese institutions, and with the embassies. This promising collaboration has already achieved great results. "Facing the challenges will leave us legacies of learning and preparation", she said, and valued the partnership when she remembered that the API imported from the AstraZeneca vaccine is produced by the Chinese laboratory Wuxi Biologics. "It has been essential for the immunization of Brazilians".
Brazil's ambassador to China, Paulo Estivallet de Mesquita, and the minister of the Chinese Embassy in Brazil, Jin Hongjun, celebrated the strengthening relations between the countries, which are very strong in the economy and trade areas and increasingly in the public health and science area. Mesquita said that Health Diplomacy is a current management priority of the Ministry of Foreign Relations and that the cooperation between Brazil and China, countries with well-developed health systems and great scientific and technological capacity, could strengthen both. Jin Hongjun, in turn, hopes that the approximation can intensify the medicines, vaccines, production, biotechnology, and human resources training.
Wei Qian, director-general of the Institute of Microbiology (IMCAS), introduced the institute and explained that it coordinates five laboratories nationwide. Qian sees cooperation with other countries as a key element for development in a globalization context. The partnership's importance due to the COVID-19 global impact was also pointed out by Carlos Morel, a Brazilian Academy of Sciences member and Center for Technological Development in Health coordinator (CDTS/Fiocruz). "The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of predicting, preventing, and controlling not only SARS, but also studying and elucidating the mechanism by which new pathogens with pandemic potential appear," he explained.
The vice president of Health Production and Innovation, Marco Krieger, and the China Center for Disease Control director, Gao Fu, gave a 30-minute presentation on the latest progress in infectious disease research.
Genomic and Immunological Surveillance
The scientific seminar then began. On the first day, Marilda Siqueira, head of the Laboratory of Respiratory Viruses and Measles (IOC/Fiocruz), and Wilson Savino, ABC member and coordinator of Regional and National Integration Strategies at Fiocruz, presented their work. Siqueira presented the Sars-Cov-2 genomic surveillance platform at Fiocruz, the Fiocruz Genomic Network. "We demonstrated that the Gamma variant evolved in different regions, we had these mutations better definition, their evolution and their impact on the spread of the disease," describes the researcher.
Savino, in turn, proposed a discussion about the immune surveillance concept. He evaluates the structuring of an immunological surveillance system to deal with health emergencies, which would improve coordination between scientists and public managers. "It would be an intelligence network that would use a technological platform to generate a large volume of data, integrating with other Fiocruz surveillance ecosystem components," he explains. "It is an initial idea and I hope to have the collaboration of other researchers to develop the concept and this system configurations."
From Recife to Wuhan
On the participative second day, Thursday (12/15), Fiocruz tried to show some of the work done throughout the national territory: from Amazonas, through Pernambuco, Bahia, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and reaching Paraná.
Ernesto Marques, a public health researcher at the Aggeu Magalhães Institute (Fiocruz Pernambuco), gave an overview of the advances in diagnosis, treatment, and the search for a vaccine against zika, a disease that has severely affected Brazil generating cases of microcephaly in babies. "Zika is to Recife as COVID-19 is to Wuhan," said Marques. He presented a test able to detect congenital zika in pregnancies from the fourth month.
From Rio, researcher Thiago Moreno, vice-coordinator of the Center for Technological Development in Health (CDTS/Fiocruz), shared studies that seek to use previously known drugs in the COVID-19 treatment, such as Daclatasvir and Sofosbuvir, originally used against hepatitis C - both showed to be effective in Sars-CoV-2, inhibiting the replication.
It was up to Manoel Barral Netto, Fiocruz Bahia researcher and Vigivac project coordinator, to present the COVID-19 vaccine digital monitoring, in Brazil. The bulletin showed that the four immunizers used in the country showed great protection against the hospitalizations and death risk, based on a 163 million people survey.
Luciano Moreira, a public health researcher at Fiocruz Minas and coordinator of the World Mosquito Program in Brazil, presented the results against arboviruses of the Wolbachia method, employed in 11 countries. Conducted in Brazil by Fiocruz, the program consists in the introduction of this bacterium in Aedes aegypt: it prevents dengue, zika, and chikungunya viruses from developing inside the mosquito. "There was a reduction of 44% to 70% of dengue cases in the worked areas," he said.
From Manaus, virologist Felipe Naveca, deputy director of Research and Innovation at the Instituto Leônidas & Maria Deane (ILMD/Fiocruz Amazônia), dealt with the surveillance of emerging, re-emerging, and neglected viruses in the Brazilian Amazon. This is the mayaru virus case (related to chikungunya), oropuche (which causes encephalitis), and coxsackie (which causes hand-foot-mouth disease). The latter is related to a form found in neighboring Venezuela. "We are using a scientific boat to go to the remote areas," Naveca recounted.
At the other side of the country, Márcio Rodrigues, from the Carlos Chagas Institute (Fiocruz Paraná) talked about neglected fungal diseases, which each year kill 1.6 million people in the world. Among them, Cryptococcal meningitis. Treatments for these diseases are expensive and limited, and he stressed the need for more funding for studies and medicines.
Among the Chinese researchers, Lianpan Dai, from the Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunobiology (CAS), spoke about COVID-19 vaccines, highlighting that the immunizer's second generation should be more adapted to the variants. Yi Shi, a professor at IMCAS and who recalled the 2019 joint seminar, dealt with new drugs against the disease. Talking about Big Data on Pathogenic Microbiology, Linhuan Wu, deputy director of the China Microbiology Data Center (IMCAS), highlighted the Brics Project Targets, which seeks collaboration on sequencing and a data analysis protocol for COVID-19 between the bloc countries, among other Chinese scientists who participated in the symposium.