Environmental health is a top priority for the Ministry of Health. It is a key concern, clearly demonstrated by the Ministry's close collaboration with the Laboratoire National de Santé (LNS) and the Centre Hospitalier Emile Mayrisch (CHEM) in launching the national environmental medicine service. Since then, the service has seen an increasing number of admissions, with a total of 126 admissions from 17 November 2022, the date of the first admission, to the last admission on 7 July 2023. This trend reflects the growing recognition of the importance of environmental health in the country.
The Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST) is a public research, development and innovation establishment dedicated to applied scientific research, technological development, technology transfer and high-level training. It has extensive expertise in the field of environmental health, offering valuable synergies with the Ministry of Health.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Health and LIST is fully in line with the environmental approach to health. It reflects the Ministry's commitment to working closely with scientific and technological partners to promote environmental health. The MoU establishes a framework for cooperation aimed at strengthening the capacity to analyse, assess and manage the environmental risks facing the population. It will also promote applied research in the field of environmental health, with an emphasis on the prevention of environmentally-related diseases. This collaboration will help to improve our understanding of the impact of the environment on human health and to develop effective strategies to protect people from environmental risks.
This cooperation will involve carrying out projects to support public policies in the field of health, at both national and European level, as well as providing mutual support for national and international research projects.
Initially, the cooperation will focus on current projects in microbial epidemiology and environmental health.
The first project aims to set up and operate a platform for monitoring viral pathogens in wastewater in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Since the advent of COVID-19, the detection of pathogens in wastewater has become standard practice for monitoring infectious diseases, particularly during epidemic periods. Respiratory viruses such as Influenza, RSV and SARS-CoV-2 continue to pose threats in terms of significant epidemic spread and potential healthcare overload. Wastewater gives an early signal when the quantity of a pathogen increases, preceding the human epidemic by several days. LIST has committed to setting up a national monitoring platform and providing the government with a full summary of the results obtained from wastewater monitoring every fortnight. Since March 2020, this methodology has been developed and monitoring is currently ongoing through to the 166th Coronastep report, using the accumulated experience to extend the monitoring system.
The second project involves molecular monitoring of the presence of mosquito vectors in Luxembourg. Mosquitoes are capable of transmitting various diseases. This monitoring programme will make it possible to track the presence of disease-carrying mosquitoes with a view to adopting appropriate preventive measures. The LIST will be in charge of conducting molecular analyses on samples collected by the Health Department at the Logistic Hub site in Bettembourg and the Berchem East motorway service area.
Subsequently, depending on the needs of the Ministry of Health, specific themes will be defined to further strengthen collaboration.
The Ministry of Health, as well as LIST, undertake to mutually exchange information, experience and knowledge relating to their collaboration, while respecting confidentiality requirements. Joint projects will also be set up, from identification to implementation, and supervision and evaluation mechanisms will be implemented.
The coordinators appointed by the Ministry of Health and LIST will facilitate exchanges and monitor the implementation of the MoU. They will play a key role in the execution of specific actions and projects, and will propose measures to make the collaboration more efficient.
Paulette Lenert, Minister for Health, said she was convinced of this strategic collaboration and stated that "it could serve as a catalyst in promoting public health and the development of innovative solutions in the field of environmental health, and will make a significant contribution to improving the health and well-being of the Luxembourg population.”
The Minister for Higher Education and Research, Claude Meisch, pointed out: "With its national research and innovation strategy, the government is encouraging research projects in specific areas with strong socio-economic potential. Research must help to ensure economic diversification as well as a high standard of living, an innovative education system, better healthcare for the population and a safe and eco-responsible environment. The MoU will create innovative synergies between research priorities in the fields of health and the environment. I therefore welcome this highly promising collaboration.”
"LIST's Environmental Research and Innovation department has acquired a great deal of experience in monitoring pathogenic micro-organisms in the environment, particularly in the context of monitoring the coronavirus in waste water during the pandemic. This type of data is extremely important for public authorities in the context of crisis management or monitoring the dynamics of infectious diseases. This collaboration will enable us to offer public authorities the innovative solutions developed by the department's microbiologists,” said Lucien Hoffmann, director of the department.
From left to right: Henry-Michel Cauchie, Robert Kerger, Jean-Claude Schmit, Etienne Jacqué, Lucien Hoffmann, Paulette Lenert, Claude Meisch, Dirk Fransaer, Tom Rausch
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