Implementing an hospital-based encephalitis surveillance in Senegal to decipher main causes of viral encephalitis
in a West-African Low-Income Country

Project Lead - Dr Jamil Kahwagi, Clinique de Neurosciences Ibrahima Pierre Ndiaye, CHNU FANN, Dakar, SENEGAL

Awarded 2021

Lay Summary

Background: Acute meningoencephalitis is a serious disease associated with high mortality. They can be caused by
pathogens (bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites) or of autoimmune origin. Viruses play an important role in
encephalitis, but little is known about their mode of action. A viral aetiology would be suspected in most cases, but
current diagnostic tools only allow to search for a limited number of viral agents already known.
To date, in Senegal, very little data are available on the main etiological causes of infectious meningoencephalitis.

This lack of knowledge impacts the management of patient, and it is essentially based on a probabilistic approach.
This study aims to increase our knowledge of the viral aetiologies of meningoencephalitis in Senegal.

Methods: The protocol will be part of the routine hospital management for patients with infectious
meningoencephalitis. Various biological samples will be taken, such as cerebrospinal fluids (CSF), whole blood,
oropharyngeal and nasopharyngeal swabs, and urine. In addition to the samples, socio-demographic, clinical and
exposure data will be collected in a questionnaire to describe the epidemiology of encephalitis cases and identify
potential risk factors. We will make the use of a multiplexes detection system (RT-PCR) enabling the detection of the
major encephalitis-associated viruses.

Additional funds from other ongoing and future projects will extend the panel of detection to other pathogens as
well as serology assay (SARS-CoV-2), metagenomic approach and the evaluation of the use of a rapid test (lateral
flow device) by clinician and its predictive value for the orientation of bacterial vs. viral infection.

Expected results: The project will identify the main viral aetiologies associated with encephalitis, clinical description
of cases, identification of risk factors and better management of infectious encephalitis

Dr Jamil Kahwagi, Neurologist, Fann Hospital, Dakar and Dr Jean-Michel Heraud, Virologist, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Dakar, Senegal talk about the project the Encephalitis Society provided funding for, in 2021.