Introducing the BMC Series SDG Editorial Board Members: Jean-Michel Heraud

Dr. Jean-Michel Heraud, Ph.D, is an Editorial Board Member of BMC Infectious Diseases. Virologist by training, he graduated in 2004 from the University Denis Diderot (Paris, France). After being a post-doc at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), he joined the Institut Pasteur de Madagascar as head of the WHO-National Influenza Centre, becoming chief of the virology unit. There, he developed several research and public health programs on various topics (influenza, arboviruses, zoonotic viruses, polioviruses, measles) and trained numerous Malagasy scientists. After many years of dedicated work in the field of public health, outbreak response, and virology in Madagascar, Dr. Heraud received the medal of the Knight of the National Order of Madagascar, by the President of the Republic of Madagascar. Recently, Dr. Heraud joined the Institut Pasteur de Dakar to develop new programs on Rabies and Viral encephalitis.

Welcome to our SDG Editorial Board Members blog collection. We are hearing from the Editorial Board Members of the BMC Series journals whose work aligns with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Here you can find other posts in this collection, grouped with the tag ‘SDG editorial board members‘.

During my almost 20 years working in Africa and Low- and Middle-income countries, I have led several public health and research programs covering a broad variety of topics (Influenza and other respiratory viruses, Arboviruses, Hepatitis, Zoonotic pathogen, etc). The unique geographical characteristics of Africa make this continent a model of choice for studies on the evolution of viral populations, mechanisms of introduction and maintenance of viruses in regions with several bio-climates and important ecological diversity. This environment, where the proportion of endemism is among the highest in the world, also offers the opportunity to elucidate new epidemiological systems and organisms, and to test innovative models of disease surveillance.

My “philosophy” during my years spent in Madagascar and working in Africa was to develop research programs of interest both at the local and international level, and to train/mentor young African scientists in order for them to develop and manage their own research projects.

Children attending school in a remote village of Madagascar [CC0 Public Domain. Free for personal and commercial use. No attribution required]
Nowadays, I’m developing new programs in the field of rabies and viral encephalitis. The aim of the rabies project is to implement an integrated approach for rabies surveillance in Senegal making use of an innovative application (REACT), developed by Mission Rabies and UC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This integrated bite case management is coordinated together with the Senegalese Ministry of Health and Ministry of Livestock.

Field/outbreak investigation difficulties during the rainy season in North of Madagascar [courtesy of Julia Guillebaud and Jean-Michel Heraud]
In Senegal, very little data are available on the main etiological causes of infectious encephalitis. This lack of knowledge impacts the management of patients. The research program that we have developed since 2020 is aimed at increasing our knowledge of the viral etiologies of encephalitis in Dakar, the capital city of Senegal. To explore this, we have implemented a multi-pathogen diagnostic platform that enables clinicians to receive results within 24h, thus accelerating the adapted management of patients. The innovation of our approach for the country is to test not only cerebrospinal fluids but also other biological specimens like nasopharyngeal swabs and blood samples. We published our first observational study in April 2022 where we demonstrated the high mortality rate (41%) among viral encephalitis patients. We also noted that SARS-CoV-2 seems to play a significant role in patients presenting with encephalitis. Besides the challenges due to limited funds available for neglected diseases, we hope that our results will allow us to better characterize the clinical spectrum of viral encephalitis, identify potential risk factors and improve healthcare by giving patients access to better treatment. Our final aim is to develop a network of hospital-based encephalitis surveillance not only in Senegal, but in West-Africa region.

To conclude, I could say that my background allowed me to perform some basic science, nevertheless, I was always interested in developing operational research programs aiming to identify the burden of some viral diseases and reduce associated morbidity and mortality. Although most of my research relates to Sustainable Development Goal 3.3 (By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases), I have a personal interest in developing new and more inclusive approaches to tackle diseases, in particular in the region with poor access to healthcare. For that I consider embracing several SDGs in particular SDGs 3 (Good Health and Well-being), 4 (Quality education), 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) and 7 (Affordable and Clean energy) through synergies of different programs could enable reaching some of the 2030 SDGs goals.

As Louis Pasteur once said: “Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world.” As a scientist that has worked for decades on infectious diseases and public health, it will be a great personal achievement shall I play a role in the reduction of morbidity and mortality due to viruses, making the use of global and sustainable approaches.


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