RESEARCHERS at Teesside University are taking part in an international collaboration to improve the treatment of some of the world’s most deadly diseases.

The €8m HoliCare project aims to tackle the challenge of diagnostics, treatment and prevention of pulmonary infectious diseases, the leading cause of death in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Lower respiratory tract infections, such as pneumonia, are the leading cause of death among infectious diseases in the world; the fifth overall cause of mortality for all ages, and the leading cause of death among children below the age of five.

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They are one of the major poverty-related diseases (PRDs), representing 40 per cent of deaths and 17 per cent of cases reported in sub-Saharan Africa, with 2.4 million deaths from LRTIs reported in 2016.

The prevention of PRDs in Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from major technological and non-technological challenges that prevent many patients from accessing high quality healthcare especially in remote or resource-limited areas.

Teesside University is one of 14 international partners, and the only UK university, taking part in the Holicare project which aims to foster the local uptake of innovative diagnostic technologies in three pilot African countries, Ethiopia, Uganda and Senegal, to help tackle this problem.

Led by KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, the HoliCare project hopes to develop a holistic approach to healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa by a combination of:

• Patient management and epidemic surveillance through innovative and complementary diagnostic technologies.

• Capacity building via the transfer of technology and manufacturing.

• Enhancing human capital potential through tailored training.

• Adoption and implementation of innovative diagnostic solutions from local stakeholder engagement.

The project hopes to implement specialised lateral flow tests for epidemic surveillance alongside diagnostic technology using a point-of-care instrument to identify pathogens.

At the same time, complementary actions will make sure the necessary digital, manufacturing and educational infrastructures are in place in Ethiopia, Senegal and Uganda to allow the successful development and deployment of these innovations.

The 36 month project has been funded with a grant of almost €8m (including a UK contribution of €2.2m) from Horizon Europe and brings together a unique combination of technical, educational, societal and entrepreneurial expertise in order to transform the current practices of healthcare delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa, with Ethiopia, Senegal and Uganda as pioneer countries.

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Professor Zulfiqur Ali, Director of Academic Research and Innovation Partnerships at Teesside University, said: “We are delighted to be taking part in this hugely important piece of research.

“Each year millions of people die from diseases of the lower respiratory tract, so finding new and innovative ways of providing access to treatment has the potential to have a huge impact on mortality rates in low and middle-income countries. Of course what we learn from the HoliCare will also be of benefit for people in high income countries.

“We are looking forward to working with our international partners and sharing Teesside University’s renowned expertise and facilities in healthcare innovation to help tackle this problem.”

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