The VERDI Consortium, coordinated by the University of Padua and Fondazione Penta ETS (Italy), has received an additional €5 million funding from the European Union (EU). Thanks to this contribution, VERDI will examine the impact of mpox on populations at higher risk of infection or severe disease, such as people with HIV, pregnant women and children.
Padova, Italy – 30 March 2023
Between the onset of the mpox outbreak in May 2022 and the end of the same year, more than 82,000 cases of mpox were reported across the globe. Of the 110 countries with confirmed mpox cases, 103 were relatively new to the spread of the virus, making the situation unprecedented. The monkeypox pandemic has put additional pressure on healthcare systems that were already strained by three years of COVID-19; it has also reinforced the need to be prepared for emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.
With a view to better understanding and responding to the mpox outbreak, the European Union has granted VERDI a top-up funding of €5 million to embed mpox-related research into the existing project. Established in 2021, VERDI puts together researchers from around the world to collaboratively study the potential impact of new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern in pregnant women and children.
As with SARS-CoV-2 and its variants, the future development of the mpox public health emergency is uncertain. Thus, vigilance is needed to monitor the epidemiology of mpox in populations at higher risk of infection, such as people living with HIV, as well as other groups who may be at higher risk of severe disease, such as pregnant women and children.
“We must be proactive in our approach to pandemics, especially considering the potential emergence of dangerous pathogens and viruses driven by climate change. VERDI’s new focus on pandemic preparedness, including COVID-19 and mpox, will ensure that we are ready to address the challenges of future outbreaks”, said Carlo Giaquinto, President of Fondazione Penta ETS and VERDI Scientific Coordinator.
The EU contribution will support the development of a research infrastructure for pandemic preparedness across VERDI’s three populations of interest, namely pregnant women, children, and adults with sexually transmitted infections. Thanks to the wealth of regional and international cohorts involved in VERDI and the diverse and complementary expertise of its members, the VERDI network will be able to rapidly pivot towards research on emerging infections. Furthermore, it will provide recommendations for management of future emerging and re-emerging pathogens on a global scale.
“We are delighted to have this opportunity to broaden the focus of VERDI and include mpox and preparedness, and all partners in the Consortium are excited about strengthening our ability to respond to new public health threats in a timely way”, commented Ali Judd, Professor of Epidemiology at University College London, member of the Penta ID Network and VERDI Scientific Coordinator.
Additionally, the focus of the Cohorts Coordination Board (CCB), which so far has been COVID-19, will be expanded to include existing networks and relevant patient groups on mpox and sexually transmitted infections. Evelina Tacconelli, Professor of Infectious Diseases at the University of Verona (Italy) and coordinator of the CCB, said: “Strengthening synergies and information-sharing among countries is of utmost importance to prepare health systems to effectively respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases. By opening the CCB to mpox and sexually transmitted infections, we can ensure that these vulnerable populations are involved in research aimed at enhancing our society’s preparedness to handle future pandemics.“
The expertise and research tools for outbreak preparedness generated from the project will ensure that VERDI has a long-lasting impact on global pandemic preparedness, in order to make sure our societies are better equipped to handle future outbreaks.