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Reinforcement of the Serbian centre for parasitic oonoses

Final Report Summary - SERBPARZOON (Reinforcement of the Serbian Centre for Parasitic Zoonoses)

This final report summarises the activities on the project SERBPARZOON for the whole project period (2007-2009). It compiles the information already submitted in regular annual reports, showing that all activities have been performed as planned, resulting in complete realisation of all project activities and deliverables. The project involved four work packages (WPs).

WP 1: Mobility (networking, reciprocal exchange visits)
As of the beginning of the project, networking with both EU and regional partners began at the onset of the project. All project EU partners showed enthusiasm for the project's joint work, and collaboration at various levels was initiated. Many visits of EU partners to the Serbian Centre for Parasitic Zoonoses (SCPZ) took place, as well as many visitors of SCPZ members to EU partners. In addition, many visits of SCPZ members to WBC regional partners also took place. The project participated in the 10th European Multicolloquium of Parasitology (EMOP), 24-29 August 2008 of five Serbparzoon members. On 5 February 2010, the project was accepted for funding.

WP 2: Dissemination of information on SCPZ activities and results
Activities to enhance the visibility of SCPZ and its results at the national, regional (WBC) and European levels were carried out during the entire duration of the project. In year one, the SCPZ promotional leaflet was prepared, published and distribution started. Two educational leaflets, one each on toxoplasmosis and trichinellosis (as major infections covered by the SCPZ) for the general audience were distributed to patients and colleagues. An open house day (7 December 2007) as part of the festivities to mark the 60th anniversary of the Institute for Medical Research took place in the presence of colleagues from the field but also from other related disciplines (such as infectologists, veterinarians, public health specialists).

The SERBPARZOON project took advantage of the presence of four of its researchers at the Fifth Balkan Congress for Microbiology, held from 24-27 October, in Budva, Montenegro, to promote the SCPZ and its activities at the regional level, by a poster presentation of SCPZ and the Serbparzoon project at the parasitology poster session.

In year two, three new educational leaflets on giardiasis, leishmaniasis and Lyme disease as topics covered by the SCPZ were published for both professionals and the general public. The leaflets were prepared in May 2008 prior to the June workshop for distribution at the workshop. Distribution was thereafter continued locally, to both professionals in the field and to the public (laboratory patients).

SEEEPS Founding Conference, 11-14 June 2008, Stara Zagora, Bulgaria: In addition to planned dissemination activities, the project took advantage of the founding meeting of the South-Eastern and Eastern European Parasitologists Society (SEEEPS) to further enhance visibility of SCPZ and promote its activities at the regional and EU levels.

A workshop titled 'SERBPARZOON: Achievements and perspectives' was held on 19-20 June 2008 with participation of two EU partners, two individuals from each of the two regional partners, and all SERBPARZOON personnel. The workshop organised midway through the project, with the main goals to present the project resources (team) and achievements to date to all partners, and to provide a forum for the young researchers to (orally) present their work and results, as well as to receive critical assessment from EU experts.

Year three:

Participation at the Sixth Balkan Congress of Microbiology and Fourth Congress of Macedonian Microbiologists, Ohrid, Macedonia, 28-31 October 2009 of three SCPZ members.

SERBPARZOON Project Conference: 'Parasitic zoonoses in present day Europe. Focus on South-East', Belgrade, 18-20 November 2009, with participants from 11 countries, including all five EU project partners and 13 EU experts, five participants from WBC including two from WBC regional partners, all SERBPARZOON personnel and another 11 Serbian scientists.

Major activity in project year three

As part of its dissemination activities, the project hosted an international scientific conference focusing on the parasitic zoonoses of major significance in South-East Europe. The conference brought together some of the most distinguished experts from the EU and the region with the project team, as well as Serbian professionals in the field. The scientific program included about 50 oral communications, consisting of both state-of-the-art lectures on trichinellosis, toxoplasmosis and vector-borne diseases and presentations of current epidemiological and epizootiological data, along with relevant current basic research in this field. In addition to providing valuable insight into the current state of these diseases in Europe and particularly in its South-East, the conference served as a networking forum to create new and enhance existing partnerships among participants from 11 EU and non-EU European countries.

The conference was a unique opportunity for the SCPZ to present its results to an international expert audience, and thus the participation of the SCPZ team was very strong, with six lectures, seven oral and three poster presentations. These presentations showed a high scientific level achieved, as well as a bright perspective of SCPZ afforded by the number of highly qualified and motivated both senior and junior researchers who are all well trained in current methodologies.

A main conclusion of the event was that, in a world of increasing interactions between humans, animals and our common environment, global climate changes and ever-increasing travel and migrations, which all increase the likelihood of emergence of parasitic zoonoses in both the number and significance, further joint research efforts are a prerequisite for the control of parasitic zoonoses at the national, regional and EU levels. In any such future effort, the SCPZ has convincingly demonstrated its capacity to be a valuable partner from the WBC region. The conference was declared a great success by all participants including all EU partners, who expressed their further enthusiastic support for the SCPZ. Taking advantage of the presence of all project EU partners at the conference, the Third International Advisory Board (IAB) meeting was held (20 November) (WP5).

The SEEEPS board meeting, 19 November 2009, Belgrade was held on the occasion of SERBPARZOON conference. In addition to planned dissemination activities, the SERBPARZOON conference which assembled a number of the SEEEPS board members allowed for an ad-hoc meeting at which it was decided to organise the First SEEEPS conference during the period 21-23 May 2010 in Thessaloniki, Greece. This board meeting in turn presented an excellent opportunity to further enhance visibility of SCPZ and promote its activities at the regional and EU levels.

WP 3: Advanced training

Advanced training included continuous local training of personnel on newly acquired equipment, as of the arrival and instalment of each particular piece. Since this basically involved introduction of molecular techniques in the diagnosis of parasitic infections, training was mostly focused on acquisition and validation of molecular technologies and methodologies. Thus, EU partners performed on-site validation, while the skills themselves were acquired or perfected through study visits of SCPZ researchers to EU partner laboratories (thereby also responding to the aims of WP1, as explained under WP1 activities).

Validation of SCPZ technologies and methodologies was performed on site by EU partners and workshop participants Professor Jean Dupouy-Camet and Maria Antoniou. The training was performed on site by EU partner Professor Isabelle Villena, focusing on the diagnostic algorithm of diagnosis of toxoplasmosis, particularly in antenatal diagnosis, and on application of molecular techniques for the above purpose.

Methodology-related training session by an EU expert from Professor J. Dupouy-Camet's partner laboratory included a one-week training session in application of molecular techniques was held at the SCPZ by Dr. Helene YERA (Universite Rene Descartes, Paris, FRANCE) between 23-27 June 2008 for all SCPZ personnel and one young researcher from each of the two regional partners.

Advanced epidemiology training seminar for all SCPZ personnel by an EU expert. As suggested by EU partners at the second IAB in June 2008, the seminar on infectious diseases surveillance and modelling using geographical information system (GIS) analysis was given by Associate Professor Laura Rinaldi, leading European expert in the field of the application of GIS in parasitology and a pioneer in its application in the epidemiology of parasitic infections. The seminar on parasitic diseases surveillance and modelling using geographical information system (GIS) analysis was held during the final SERBPARZOON project conference (18-20 November 2009), for the benefit of all SCPZ personnel and WBC partners, and also for all interested conference participants.

This work package also saw other initiatives of advanced training of SCPZ members in the EU and local training by SCPZ members within the project's field of expertise.

WP 4: Reinforcement of human and material resources

Activities within WP 4 represented the bulk of the activities on SERBPARZOON project, and were continuous during the entire duration of the project. These involved hiring of new young researchers and reinforcement of material resources. A handful of researchers was hired for the project which was of great benefit to them.

Activities on the reinforcement of material resources have been initiated as of the kick-off of the project, and have been continuous during the entire duration of the project. Tendering documentation for all major equipment was prepared by March 2007 (month 3). The formal procedure including announcements for invitations for public bids for procurement of equipment ensued, followed by analysis of offers, and decision on best offer. Contracts for procurement of equipment were signed in month 6. Simultaneously with the above activities, the lab space for the molecular biology unit has been completely renovated and refurnished following high standards to satisfy GLP accreditation requirements. All major equipment including real-time PCR, gradient PCR, lab freezer at -86 degrees Celsius, fluorescence upgrade on the existing research microscope, new fluorescent microscope, centrifuges as well as various smaller pieces of equipment were installed by month 9.

WP 5: Project management

Activities within this WP were carried out continuously in order to ensure smooth running and timely delivery of all expected results. All management levels, including the coordinator, the project committee and the international advisory board, worked in close cooperation. The project committee held its first meeting on 14 February 2007, followed by regular conferences, generally at a quarterly basis, or more frequently, as required by work needs and importance of decisions to be made (decisions on equipment procurement, organisation of workshop and conference, exchange visit schedule, training session plans). Further monthly conferences of the project committee with the coordinator served to review the work in progress and make decisions on further activities. Additional regular briefings including junior personnel were held, since all members were engaged on some part of the work undertaken (activities related to the procurement of particular pieces of equipment, Workshop and Conference organisation, exchange visits / training), which necessitated continuous follow-up and monitoring.