PreFIT annual consortium meeting of 2022 was held in Stellenbosch

From the 8th to the 10th of June 2022, six partners involved in the PreFIT project met face to face for the first time since the beginning of the project. The PreFIT Annual Consortium Meeting was hosted in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Representatives from all institutions attended the meeting, including those from the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD) in the Netherlands, Stellenbosch University (SU) in South Africa, the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain, the Manhiça Health Research Centre (CISM) in Mozambique, Makerere University in Uganda, and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) in Switzerland. In addition, a representative from PREFIT’s funding agency, the European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), also joined some of the sessions. 

The meeting has provided a unique opportunity to discuss the project, which aims to evaluate new biomarkers for detecting incipient Tuberculosis. As Frank Cobelens, from AIGHD, stressed during the first day of the meeting: “PreFIT’s results will contribute to the development and uptake of accurate, cost-effective, scalable and field-friendly diagnostic tools, in order to facilitate scale-up treatment in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond”.

TB is a preventable disease that every year kills over one million people, affecting disproportionally those living in unprivileged economic and social conditions. In 2020, in Africa alone, Tuberculosis was responsible for 2.46 million cases of disease (579,000 of whom were co-infected with HIV) and 549,000 deaths.

But it does not have to be this way. Tuberculosis is a preventable and curable disease. In fact, 66 million lives have been saved between 2020 and 2020 by global efforts to end TB. A major role will be played by projects – as in the case of PreFIT – that will predict with accuracy and at reduced economic costs the progression from latent tuberculosis –the asymptomatic phase in which people can’t spread TB- to active disease. 

“What is so innovative about the PreFIT project is that it comes at a time, when the world is fighting toward reaching the WHO’s 2035 End TB Strategy targets. We have been lagging behind in controlling TB transmission, but PreFIT wants to contribute to predicting those people who are likely to develop active TB disease, which is the transmissible form of TB” said Willy SSengoba, from Makerere University.

Additionally, Shima Abdulgader, from SU, explained during the meeting the impact the project will have: “PreFIT will reduce the disparities in global health because TB is a poverty-related disease affecting poor people all over the world. The key point of PreFIT is that it targets a diverse population across Africa, so the results of this study will be representative of this diversity, benefitting the global population”. 

Prevention and relieving suffering in local communities were the keywords of the last day of the annual consortium meeting this year. As Michelle Nderu, from EDCTP, highlighted during the closing session: “Our vision and mission [of EDCTP] is to ensure we are able to alleviate the burden of poverty-related diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa and we ensure this by investing in the clinical research environment . […] PreFIT perfectly aligns with the EDCTP Strategic Research Agenda in that it addresses the need to evaluate newly developed TB diagnostic technologies and its uptake as a diagnostic tool that would eventually benefit the health of local communities. ”

The three-day meeting concluded with a guided visit to two clinics on the outskirts of Cape Town to understand and share how the project is being implemented locally. International experts visited mobile clinics and their laboratories serving some of the most vulnerable populations in Cape Town.

The pictures were taken during guided visits to two clinics on the outskirts of Cape Town to close the PreFIT Annual Meeting of 2022