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A character-driven tale of pandemic prevention, told by NPR's Ari Daniel

United Auto Workers members walk the picket line at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
United Auto Workers members walk the picket line at the Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Two scientists — one in Nigeria and one in the U.S. — realized that deadly diseases kept emerging (or reemerging) in West Africa, but going undetected, leading sometimes to widespread outbreaks.

The two collaborated on a disease surveillance pilot project just as ebola was tearing across the continent in 2014, and wound up detecting the first known case of ebola in Nigeria and helping head off a devastating outbreak in Lagos. This success also cemented a bond between the two scientists and led to the creation of the African Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID).

By the time the COVID-19 pandemic was taking off, ACEGID had developed diagnostic tools even before the U.S. Now the program is expanding in hopes of catching the next emerging disease before it becomes a pandemic.

NPR’s Ari Daniel tells the story beat-by-beat through the friendship of these two scientists, with an interlude and coda of an original song by Sabetti, the Nigerian scientist, about the power of love and friendship in the midst of deadly disease.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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