Aiming to tackle infectious diseases: Ohio State University’s Global One Health Initiative collaborates with The University of Gondar

On 7 August 2017 in the HDP hall in the presidents office Dr. Getnet Yimer, regional director of Ohio State University’s Global One Health Initiative, discussed promising advancements in the ongoing relationship between OSU and UoG. Dr. Getnet, who also sits as an Associate Professor at Ohio State University’s Internal Medicine Department, alluded to major projects that are being produced which would revolutionize the way people understand and combat infectious diseases in Ethiopia.

The objective of his visit to the University of Gondar was to hold a discussion on present and upcoming projects. Dr. Getnet’s overarching reason for addressing the group of UoG’s top leadership is because Ohio State University and The University of Gondar share common values. For instance in our interview after the open discussion he stated, “By addressing health related problems via the One Health approach, it will be more influential to focus on human, animal and environment interfaces. This One Health perspective is used by both OSU and UoG and in links us together”

After expanding its role within Gondar, the Ohio based University now works with different universities in East Africa. Some of those universities include the University of Nairobi (Kenya), Sokoine University of Agriculture (Tanzania), Addis Ababa University, Haramaya University and Jimma University; The University of Gondar being the primary university in the Horn of Africa.

Some new initiatives were also discussed. The WHIP-3 TB project as well as the Mag-Pi software was brought to the forefront. These innovative techniques will change the way we address infectious diseases, as we know it.

WHIP-3 seems to be a colossal project that will have practical results in Ethiopia and, more broadly, East Africa. The project initially aims to improve the leading causes of diseases amongst individuals who have Tuberculosis. Until now it has been treated with INH (Drycho-Isoniazid), which is a drug that is recommended by the World Health Organization. But, through vigorous research and the full backing of this project the clinical research to change the status quo is underway.

The question posed by Dr. Getnet Yimer in our one-on-one interview concerning WHIP-3 is, “Can we have other alternatives which would be more beneficial to a person other than the drug INH?” His answer is one that expressed optimism. A drug called 3HP, which includes Rifapentine and Isoniazid, is in the discussion to take over. If it is possible for this drug to be more efficient along with decreasing the adverse effects it is perceived that it would be a huge advancement. Major clinical trails are underway internationally to test just that.

In Ethiopia, around 200 participants have been enrolled in the study, which is funded by USAID. The University of Gondar thus strengthening the relationship with its partners is administering the project.

Along the same lines the Mag- Pi initiative is also an influential piece of work that would produce practical results through out the country. According to the Regional Director of the Global One Health Initiative, “The Mag-Pi platform is a wonderful electronic interface that is used to collect data. He stressed that people will no longer collect data via conventional paper but through electronic tablets. Being connected online, its real time data analysis and data cleaning is bound to make things easier when data is reported from one profile electronically.

Local areas that are not equipped with such technology will have a stark difference from those who are. Such technology will have an indirect impact on infectious diseases. Therefore, if one uses its practical benefits to collect data from Rabies, Brucellosis and other infections its potential is limitless. “It works well,” says Dr. Getnet, “and this is one of the amazing examples of technology transfer instances that connects OSU and universities in Ethiopia.”

The relationship between Ohio State University and the University of Gondar is a historic one. Even some years before 2017 a significant initiative called the Summer Institute was launched. Its prime objective was to educate, as part of a curriculum, students in Ethiopia at UoG. What made this program exceptional is the fortitude of OSU professors who came to Ethiopia to teach the courses. Intellectuals from Addis Ababa University, Haramaya University, Jimma University and others across Ethiopia enjoyed the quality learning experience.

But the collaboration between the two prestigious universities did not end with the Summer Institute. Projects and programs including GHSA (developing a Rabies road map), TB diagnostics (innovative idea on gaining an enhanced TB diagnostics kit), e-capacity building, working on the elimination of Rabies, TB/HIV programs and environmental science projects were created to tackle the dire issues of today.

When the interview came to an end Dr. Getnet concluded by saying, “When you asked earlier, –Is the relationship growing? – I have to say you will see the progress and growth real soon.” His words expressed a long lasting partnership between the two institutions. Moreover, the University of Gondar and Ohio State University are working on many projects together. In the future it is inevitable that Memorandums of Understandings that were signed will ultimately be modified to enlarge and broaden the connection between the two so that collaborations can reach to higher levels. This will only deepen and strengthen the relationship between OSU and UOG. This partnership will eventually develop and enhance the quality of life in this country. Therefore, taking meaningful strides towards an infectious free world, via worthwhile projects and innovative technology, will propel Ethiopia one step closer to appreciating a better life for all citizens.

Samuel Malede| Public & International Relations Directorate