Is disease X already here? Does the arrival of COVID-19 mean we need to rethink our health monitoring systems? As part of the Monitoring Outbreak events for Disease surveillance project – MOOD – which began in January 2020, European and North American researchers are enhancing early detection capabilities for new epidemics. ISID has joined this team of 25 research institutes and public health agencies to protect the health of humans, animals, and the environment.
What are the risks of a new pathogen emerging in Europe? What are the risks of it spreading to other regions? Where is it most likely to spread? These are the preliminary questions that will be addressed by the MOOD project. The project aims to improve epidemic intelligence tools and services, with a strong focus today on COVID-19.
Coordinated by CIRAD as part of the European programme H2020, MOOD is backed by a budget of 14 million euros and brings together 25 partners from 12 countries including research institutions, public health agencies, and veterinary services. When the programme concludes at the end of 2023, its participants will have developed new monitoring tools as a complementary addition to those already in existence. These new tools will be shared with all countries.
Faced with the COVID-19 emergency, the MOOD team quickly rolled out specific measures, notably with ISID’s ProMED network alerting the international community to the outbreak and MOOD partners modelling SARS-CoV-2 transmission. "With the outbreak of COVID-19, we are working twice as hard, while maintaining the trajectory of the initial programme," stresses Renaud Lancelot, a CIRAD researcher and MOOD’s scientific coordinator.
"The exchanges are intense. They are taking place via videoconference until the MOOD launch meeting can be held in Stockholm, as was planned prior to the restrictions relating to COVID-19," says project leader and CIRAD researcher Elena Arsevska.
The Swedish capital was chosen for the official launch of the project because it is home to the headquarters of the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC). The ECDC is one of MOOD's key partners, along with the WHO (the World Health Organization), FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and OIE (the World Organization for Animal Health).
Unifying and improving health monitoring in Europe and around the world
The MOOD project will come in four stages:
- Five case studies on epidemic intelligence systems providing information for European countries with different socio-economic statuses, geography, climate and methods of surveillance have already begun. This is focused on Spain, Finland, France, Italy, and Serbia;
- Together with the international epidemic intelligence stakeholders, work will then be carried out to characterise their systems and then jointly assess their needs in terms of epidemic intelligence tools and services;
- Tools and services will be developed and made available to the ECDC and the public health agencies involved in the project and disseminated in Europe and beyond, particularly in the Global South;
- Finally, these new co-constructed tools and services will be shared at a reasonable cost and, if possible, be open source.
For four years, research institutions, foundations and government public health and veterinary organisations will work together to unify and improve epidemic intelligence tools and services.
* Partners involved in MOOD
France: Anses, Cirad, INRAE, Inserm, Université de Montpellier-LIRMM, GERDAL
Germany: Mundialis GmbH & Co KG
Belgium: Institute of Tropical Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Katolich University of Leuven, Avia-GIS
Spain: Instituto de Salud Carlos III
Italy: Fondazione Edmund Mach/Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Istituto Superiore di Sanità
Finland: Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare
Netherlands: Stichting OpenGeoHub
Portugal: Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores - Investigação e Desenvolvimento
United Kingdom: University of Oxford, Environmental Research Group Oxford Limited, University of Southampton
Serbia: Institute of Public Health of Serbia
Switzerland: ETH Zürich, SIB Institut Suisse de Bioinformatique
United States of America: International Society for Infectious Diseases
Scientific coordinator of the MOOD project