2020-06-09

CORESMA provides evidence-based data on measures against coronavirus

EU project coordinated at the HZI links research areas to effectively contain the pandemic

The healthcare systems of many countries are not prepared for an outbreak of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. The Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig coordinates an international project to collect clinical, epidemiological and immunological data in order to provide a basis for further decisions in the corona crisis. In a highly competitive call for proposals, the CORESMA project (COVID-19-Outbreak Response combining E-health, Serolomics, Modelling, Artificial Intelligence and Implementation Research) has received three-year funding of 2.7 million euros from the Horizon 2020 Programme of the European Union. In addition to the HZI as project partner and coordinator, institutions from Germany, the Netherlands, China, Switzerland, Nepal and Côte d’Ivoire are involved in the project.

©everythingpossible - stock.adobe.com©everythingpossible - stock.adobe.com“In the current situation, we urgently need a scientific basis for the difficult decisions that have to be taken to combat the pandemic,” says Prof Gérard Krause, head of the Epidemiology department at the HZI and CORESMA project leader. So far, however, the available clinical, epidemiological and immunological information is not yet mutually interlinked. “Therefore, CORESMA is based on three pillars,” says Krause. “The data from eHealth systems for digital transmission chain recording and from seroprevalence studies with newly developed antibody tests will be jointly analysed using new modelling methods”. The aim is to answer fundamental questions on risk assessment and targeted measures to limit the pandemic.

The national and international partners pursue the project objectives in four networked work packages. Furthermore, the project is in close exchange with other EU-funded projects on SARS-CoV-2, this exchange is coordinated by the WHO and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Within the framework of CORESMA, the HZI-developed mobile disease management system SORMAS will be established in Nepal and Côte d’Ivoire. With SORMAS, data on disease outbreaks are recorded in a structured manner and complex transmission chains are analysed. Thereby, the measures taken can be coordinated in the best possible way. In February, the system was expanded to include a module for SARS-CoV-2 and is already being used in Nigeria and Ghana.

We have a responsibility, not only in Europe but also globally, to support the response to this and future pandemics

Prof Dirk Heinz, Scientific Director of the HZI

At the NMI Natural and Medical Sciences Institute at the University of Tübingen, Dr Nicole Schneiderhan-Marra leads the development of new antibody test methods. In cooperation with the Epidemiology department at the HZI, the NMI is currently developing a multiplexed antibody test against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. In contrast to antibody tests already available, the multiplexed test enables the parallel detection of antibodies against different viral proteins. For example, the spread of the coronavirus can be compared to other pathogens causing respiratory diseases. Within the CORESMA project, this new test will be used in seroprevalence population studies in Germany and Nepal. The research group of Prof Mirjam Kretzschmar at the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) will incorporate the data from SORMAS and the seroprevalence studies in their modelling. With the models, the researchers are looking for factors that predict severe infection courses and transmission dynamics. The Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) is investigating the implementation of SORMAS under the direction of Prof Kaspar Wyss. The aim is to develop packages of measures for Nepal and Côte d’Ivoire that are tailored to local conditions. The efficient combat of the pandemic in third countries can prevent the import of infections into the EU.

“The project runs for three years. However, we have already been able to reveal initial findings and developments in scientific manuscripts. These have been incorporated into the consultation strategies for the current pandemic,” says Dr Vanessa Melhorn, CORESMA project coordinator at the HZI. The knowledge about the dynamics of the pandemic will also help to respond quickly and appropriately to future outbreaks of novel pathogens. Prof Dirk Heinz, Scientific Director of the HZI, emphasizes another aspect: “We have a responsibility, not only in Europe but also globally, to support the response to this and future pandemics” and adds that “the CORESMA project will make an important contribution in this regard”.

Funding:

The CORESMA consortium is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101003480.

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