“Science Together”: Tunisian research to support access and advocacy

Technician from the laboratory taking sample from a patient at the CSO Office. Institut Pasteur de Tunis.

More news about the first collaborative project co-created among the Tunisian Association for Information and Orientation on HIV/AIDS and Toxicomania and the laboratory of virology at the Institut Pasteur de Tunis

The Institut Pasteur de Tunis’s Science Shop (IPT-SS) “Science Together” was created in 2017. After an online call, they collected 36 societal needs from Tunisian Civil Society Organizations (CSO). The selection committee composed by CSO representatives as well as local experts chose one of these needs to be the SS pilot project. This project was co-created with the Tunisian Association for Information and Orientation on HIV/AIDS and Toxicomania (ATIOST) and the laboratory of clinical virology at the IPT. A master student was selected to work on this project entitled “Genetic characterization of circulating hepatitis C virus strains among injecting drug users (IDU) in Tunisia”. The knowledge on hepatitis C genotypes among (IDU) is an important step in the diagnosis of HCV infection and a key component of therapeutic decision.

Members of ATIOST with the Master student. Institut Pasteur de Tunis.

In Tunisia, infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a major public health problem. In 2015, the national prevalence is estimated at 0.9% in the general population. Tunisia has implemented a national “hepatitis C” elimination plan from 2016 to 2023 to eliminate this infection based on universal access to treatment. Nevertheless, injection drug users characterized by a high prevalence of HCV infection (around 30%) had an extremely poor access to treatment. This vulnerable population is also considered as a critical vector of viral strains to the Tunisian population.

This project established a successful collaboration between the laboratory and the CSO. It allowed the laboratory to have access for the first time to a key population and therefore to have innovative results. The scientific results are a description of circulating HCV strains in this population; therefore, the outcome will be very useful for the CSO’s advocacy towards policy makers on the importance of involving this population in the national strategy for the eradication of hepatitis C in Tunisia. This project also allowed more than 100 patients who participated in the study to have access to free diagnosis and treatment, supported by the national plan against hepatitis C.