Improving human health


With regard to the major health issues covered by SDG 21 and 32, the overall aim of IRD’s ‘Health and Societies’ department is to contribute to efforts to improve the health of populations in Southern countries through five main subject areas:

  1. SDG 2 — End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. 

  2. SDG 3 — Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. 

Key figures

Flagship projects

AIDS: the origin of all the HIV-1 strain circulating in humans finally identified

An international study run by IRD researchers and a number of partners confirms that the O and P variants of the HIV-1 virus responsible for AIDS have their origins in gorillas in south-west Cameroon. The origin of all the HIV-1 strains circulating in humans has thus finally been identified. These results were published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on 2 March 2015.

How the Zika virus infects human cells

Like its cousins, the dengue and chikungunya viruses, Zika is an emerging virus. It was revealed in the 2007 epidemic in Micronesia and has since hit Polynesia (end 2013) where 55,000 people have been affected. It has now reached Latin American and the Caribbean. For the first time in 2015, researchers from IRD, Inserm, Institut Pasteur and their Thai partners described how it infects humans after a mosquito bite then spreads in the patient. Their discoveries have opened the way for the development of treatment.

Overcoming mosquito resistance to insecticides

Controlling mosquitos, which transmit human diseases, is a worldwide health issue. Their capacity to withstand insecticide treatments currently threatens the prevention of epidemics. Researchers from the CNRS, IRD, Claude Bernard Lyon 1 University, Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, and the Institut Pasteur in Guyana have identified new genetic markers of mosquito resistance to insecticides, which will enable better detection of resistance in the field.

2015 Highlights
  • Launch of the ‘Napneung’ project in Thailand

    This project aims to improve access for vulnerable populations to screening for HIV, hepatitis B and C, and syphilis.

    For more information
  • EBODAKAR 2015 Symposium

    This symposium was held in Dakar and had two goals: bringing together contributions from anthropologists and social scientists on the West African Ebola epidemic, and creating a forum for exchanges between researchers and stakeholders in the response.

    For more information
  • Inauguration of the Centre for Integrated Malaria Control (CLIP) and the Benin Clinical Research Institute (IRCB)

    François Hollande and President of the Republic of Benin, Dr Boni Yayi, inaugurated both research centres in July 2015.

  • Spotlight on the fight against sleeping sickness (HAT)

    Doctor, medical entomologist and director of the Institut Pierre Richet in Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire, Dramane Kaba was awarded the Mérieux Doctors chair for his research into HAT. He will be hosted by the Intertryp unit for the 2015 – 2016 academic year. In addition, the European Union has granted €3 million to a multisite evaluation project to assess different HAT diagnosis methods.

  • Publication of the 2015 Global Nutrition Report

    IRD researchers contributed to this report, which summarises national and international progress in all forms of nutrition.

And in the future?

IRD researchers will remain at the forefront in the fight against new epidemics and emerging infectious risks (Zika, Ebola) while reinforcing the One Health 1 approach made possible by the Institute’s interdisciplinary structure.
Research into the impact of pollution on the environment and health will be stepped up. Finally, the question of reducing inequalities (social, gender, geographic and economic) in access to care will be made a priority in the context of demographic and epidemiological transition where chronic diseases are affecting a growing proportion of the population.

  1. The One Health approach aims to strengthen ties between human health, animal health and environmental management.