Welcome to MSF Field Research


MSF is known for its humanitarian medical work, but it has also produced important research based on its field experience. It has published articles in over 100 peer-reviewed journals and they have often changed clinical practice and been used for humanitarian advocacy. These articles are available for free, in full text - no login required. We sincerely thank the publishers for their permission to archive on this site.


Published Research and Commentary
Conference Abstracts
Programme Descriptions
Research Resources


  • Measuring the unknown: an estimator and simulation study for assessing case reporting during epidemics

    Jarvis, CI; Gimma, A; Finger, F; Morris, TP; Thompson, JA; de Waroux, OlP; Edmunds, WJ; Funk, S; Jombart, T (bioRxiv, 2021-12-17)
    The fraction of cases reported, known as ‘reporting’, is a key performance indicator in an outbreak response, and an essential factor to consider when modelling epidemics and assessing their impact on populations. Unfortunately, its estimation is inherently difficult, as it relates to the part of an epidemic which is, by definition, not observed. We introduce a simple statistical method for estimating reporting, initially developed for the response to Ebola in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), 2018-2020. This approach uses transmission chain data typically gathered through case investigation and contact tracing, and uses the proportion of investigated cases with a known, reported infector as a proxy for reporting. Using simulated epidemics, we study how this method performs for different outbreak sizes and reporting levels. Results suggest that our method has low bias, reasonable precision, and despite sub-optimal coverage, usually provides estimates within close range (5-10%) of the true value. Being fast and simple, this method could be useful for estimating reporting in real-time in settings where person-to-person transmission is the main driver of the epidemic, and where case investigation is routinely performed as part of surveillance and contact tracing activities.
  • Briefing paper for field epidemiologists: Community indicator-based surveillance

    Carrión Martin, Antonio Isidro,; Kuehne, Anna; Keating, Patrick; Lenglet, Annick; Southgate, Rosamund; Caleo, Grazia; van Boetzelaer, Elburg; MSF, OCA (2021-10)
    Concepts and practical aspects to help implementation of community indicator-based surveillance in humanitarian settings
  • Pneumococcal Meningitis Outbreaks in Africa, 2000-2018: Systematic Literature Review and Meningitis Surveillance Database Analyses.

    Franklin, K; Kwambana-Adams, B; Lessa, FC; Soeters, HM; Cooper, L; Coldiron, ME; Mwenda, J; Antonio, M; Nakamura, T; Novak, R; et al. (Oxford University Press, 2021-09-01)
    Background The meningitis belt of sub-Saharan Africa has traditionally experienced large outbreaks of meningitis mainly caused by Neisseria meningitidis. More recently, Streptococcus pneumoniae has been recognized as a cause of meningitis outbreaks in the region. Little is known about the natural history and epidemiology of these outbreaks, and, in contrast to meningococcal meningitis, there is no agreed definition for a pneumococcal meningitis epidemic. The aim of this analysis was to systematically review and understand pneumococcal meningitis outbreaks in Africa between 2000 and 2018. Methods Meningitis outbreaks were identified using a systematic literature review and analyses of meningitis surveillance databases. Potential outbreaks were included in the final analysis if they reported at least 10 laboratory-confirmed meningitis cases above baseline per week with ≥50% of cases confirmed as pneumococcus. Results A total of 10 potential pneumococcal meningitis outbreaks were identified in Africa between 2000 and 2018. Of these, 2 were classified as confirmed, 7 were classified as possible, and 1 was classified as unlikely. Three outbreaks spanned more than 1 year. In general, the outbreaks demonstrated lower peak attack rates than meningococcal meningitis outbreaks and had a predominance of serotype 1. Patients with pneumococcal meningitis tended to be older and had higher case fatality rates than meningococcal meningitis cases. An outbreak definition, which includes a weekly district-level incidence of at least 10 suspected cases per 100 000 population per week, with >10 cumulative confirmed cases of pneumococcus per year, would have identified all 10 potential outbreaks. Conclusions Given the frequency of and high case fatality from pneumococcal meningitis outbreaks, public health recommendations on vaccination strategies and the management of outbreaks are needed. Improved laboratory testing for S. pneumoniae is critical for early outbreak identification.
  • Etiology and Incidence of Moderate-to-Severe Diarrhea in Young Children in Niger.

    Platts-Mills, JA; Houpt, ER; Liu, J; Zhang, J; Guindo, O; Sayingoza-Makombe, N; McMurry, TL; Elwood, S; Langendorf, C; Grais, RF; et al. (Oxford University Press, 2021-09-01)
    Background High-resolution data on the etiology of childhood diarrhea in countries with the highest burden and mortality remain sparse and are needed to inform burden estimates and prioritize interventions. Methods We tested stool specimens collected between October 2014 and December 2017 from children under 2 years of age from the per-protocol population of a placebo-controlled clinical trial of a bovine rotavirus pentavalent vaccine (Rotasiil) in Niger. We tested 1729 episodes of moderate-to-severe diarrhea (Vesikari score ≥ 7) using quantitative PCR and estimated pathogen-specific burdens by age, season, severity, and trial intervention arm. Results The 4 pathogens with the highest attributable incidence of diarrhea were Shigella (7.2 attributable episodes per 100 child-years; 95% confidence interval: 5.2, 9.7), Cryptosporidium (6.5; 5.8, 7.2), rotavirus (6.4; 5.9, 6.7), and heat-stabile toxin-producing enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ST-ETEC) (6.2; 3.1, 7.7). Cryptosporidium was the leading etiology of severe diarrhea (Vesikari score ≥ 11) and diarrhea requiring hospitalization. Shigella was the leading etiology of diarrhea in children 12-23 months of age but also had a substantial burden in the first year of life, with 60.5% of episodes of severe shigellosis occurring in infants. Shigella, Cryptosporidium, and ST-ETEC incidence peaked during the warmer and wetter period and coincided with peak all-cause diarrhea incidence. Conclusions In this high-burden setting, the leading diarrheal pathogens were Shigella, Cryptosporidium, rotavirus, and ST-ETEC, and each was disproportionately seen in infants. Vaccine development should target these pathogens, and the impact of vaccine schedule on diarrhea burden in the youngest children will need to be considered.
  • Modelling the relative benefits of using the measles vaccine outside cold chain for outbreak response.

    Azam, JM; Saitta, B; Bonner, K; Ferrari, MJ; Pulliam, JRC (Elsevier, 2021-09-01)
    Introduction: Rapid outbreak response vaccination is a strategy for measles control and elimination. Measles vaccines must be stored and transported within a specified temperature range, but this can present significant challenges when targeting remote populations. Measles vaccine licensure for delivery outside cold chain (OCC) could provide more vaccine transport/storage space without ice packs, and a solution to shorten response times. However, due to vaccine safety and wastage considerations, the OCC strategy will require other operational changes, potentially including the use of 1-dose (monodose) instead of 10-dose vials, requiring larger transport/storage equipment currently achieved with 10-dose vials. These trade-offs require quantitative comparisons of vaccine delivery options to evaluate their relative benefits. Methods: We developed a modelling framework combining elements of the vaccine supply chain - cold chain, vial, team, and transport equipment types - with a measles transmission dynamics model to compare vaccine delivery options. We compared 10 strategies resulting from combinations of the vaccine supply elements and grouped into three main classes: OCC, partial cold chain (PCC), and full cold chain (FCC). For each strategy, we explored a campaign with 20 teams sequentially targeting 5 locations with 100,000 individuals each. We characterised the time needed to freeze ice packs and complete the campaign (campaign duration), vaccination coverage, and cases averted, assuming a fixed pre-deployment delay before campaign commencement. We performed sensitivity analyses of the pre-deployment delay, population sizes, and two team allocation schemes. Results: The OCC, PCC, and FCC strategies achieve campaign durations of 50, 51, and 52 days, respectively. Nine of the ten strategies can achieve a vaccination coverage of 80%, and OCC averts the most cases. Discussion: The OCC strategy, therefore, presents improved operational and epidemiological outcomes relative to current practice and the other options considered.

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