The evolution of ILM’s research activities is closely linked to the evolution of diseases affecting the population: filariasis at the beginning, then extended to major communicable and endemic diseases (meningitis, dengue fever, tuberculosis, leprosy, sexually transmitted infections), to marine biotoxins, and more recently to emerging infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases.
Three themes currently structure the institute’s research field:
- Toxic microalgae;
- Emerging Infectious Diseases;
- Non-communicable diseases.
Established in 1967 following an episode of severe clams poisoning cases in Bora Bora, the research laboratory on toxic microalgae (LMT) focuses on the study of ciguatera fish poisoning, whose consequences affect French Polynesia’s populations highly dependent, on the food and economic level, of marine products.
This research is based on :
- The development of tools to detect, dangerous strains of Gambierdiscus microalgae, ciguateric toxins in the food web and of diagnostic in patients,
- Epidemiological monitoring of poisoning cases,
- Risk mapping of sensitive Polynesian lagoons and securing of the fishing industry,
- Study of environmental mechanisms underlying toxic algal blooms,
- Assessment of traditional medicines,
- Biomedical studies,
- Health monitoring.
They aim to endow French Polynesia with a surveillance network in order to enhance the management of poisoning risks and to promote lagoons resources, with a view towards sustainable development.
With its rewarded and internationally acknowledged experience, LMT’s research activities are involved in several national and regional collaborative networks with regards to the marine biotoxins topic.
Emerging Infectious Diseases
Research activities and monitoring of infectious diseases of an epidemic risk in French Polynesia are, since 2012, gathered within the emerging infectious diseases research and surveillance unit (PMIE).
The unit combines three types of inter-dependent activities:
- Medical diagnostic from samples coming from the 5 archipelagos. This wide recruitment allows the Institute to be a Polynesians health observatory,
- Health monitoring: ILM monitors endemic infectious diseases (dengue fever, filariasis, influenza, leptospirosis, tuberculosis ...), chronic diseases (HIV, hepatitis B), as well as C. trachomatis infections and emerging pathogens (Chikungunya, Zika, Ross River, West Nile viruses ...),
- Medical and entomological research: this research aims to improve knowledge on arboviruses (filariasis, dengue fever ...) and their vectors (Aedes mosquitoes), to develop diagnostic tools and innovative, sustainable and environmentally friendly vector control techniques,
Together, these competences are an effective tool for the prevention and management of epidemic alerts.
Since 2007, the non communicable diseases research unit (LMNT) studies the origin, nature and evolution of so-called "civilization" diseases in French Polynesia (obesity, cardiovascular, endocrine or metabolic diseases, cancer, environment related diseases…).
This understanding contributes to lay the foundation for an adapted prevention policy regarding these diseases whose impact is increasing. LMNT is structured around four research areas:
- Food transition;
- Evaluation of methylmercury impregnation and health consequences;
- Study of endocrine and metabolic diseases;
- Evaluation of plant protection products impregnation and health consequences.