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Kazakhstan joins global combat against infectious deseases


Kazakhstan is putting an effort into global combat against infectious diseases and viruses. Amid the recent Ebola outbreak, scientists from Kazakhstan are willing to join the global search for a vaccine against the deadly virus, Tengrinews reports.

According to Abylai Sansyzbai, general director of the state enterprise Research and Development Institute for Biological Safety Problems, scientific potential of Kazakhstan scientists is sufficient for them to work on development of a vaccine against Ebola.

He reminded that virologists from Kazakhstan had the necessary knowledge and experience in development of vaccines against various types of fever, including hemorrhagic. Kazakhstan has hosted labs studying deadly viruses since the Soviet era.

For example, the Institute is now working on the creation of cure for avian and swine influenza. The establishment received strains of these viruses from the World Health Organization (WHO) after a teleconference held in May 2014.

However, the domestic scientists have no necessary conditions to start working on a vaccine against Ebola. "This requires a laboratory biosafety level 4 (BSL-4). Kazakhstan still doesn’t have one, we are now only completing the construction of a laboratory with biosafety level 3," Sansyzbai said.

Laboratory BSL-3 Sansyzbai was talking about is a special laboratory being built in Almaty sponsored by the US Department of Defence that provided $103 million for its construction.

The laboratory is aimed at researching plague viruses, cholera, malignant anthrax and other dangerous infections, their spread and methods of prevention. The case of a teenager in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan dying from bubonic plague in August 2013 has been a sign that such laboratory in Central Asia was indeed welcome, though the construction of such laboratory caused some opposition.

The new facility will replace the Scientific Center of Quarantine and Zoonotic Diseases that has been operating since 1949 and has a very outdated infrastructure and security.

Even though BSL-3 is not the highest level of security like BSL-4, it is enough to deal with most other deadly viruses. So, Sansyzbai did not rule out the possibility of Kazakh scientists being able to obtain a strain of the Ebola virus for studies, even without having a BSL-4 lab. 

"The WHO deals with this. If we obtain a strain of the Ebola from the WHO, we can gradually start the work in our laboratory with biosafety level 3. A commission must come for that and examine the conditions," Sansyzbai said.

To complement the scientific developments, Kazakh scientists are busy with the project of a plant to produce vaccines in Zhambyl Oblast, he said. Its construction has not yet begun due to lack of funding. But some aid is expected from South Korea that is willing to invest half the plant’s value, which Sansyzbai claims may be a way for Korea to enter the drug markets of the CIS and Europe.

In the increasingly globalizing world the international cooperation in finding cures and fighting infectious deceases is only natural.

It was reported that Ebola might reach Kazakhstan at the turn of 2014-2015. The possible route may include both air and ground transportation and it may not necessarily come from the Western African countries of its origin - Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - but may as well arrive from countries like the United States, India, Turkey or Russia.

The deadly virus has already killed more than 4,000 people and infected more than 8,000 worldwide.

By Dinara Urazova (additional reporting by Dmitry Khegai)

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