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Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum
Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum - 2018 (cropped).jpg
Alma materUniversity of Leuven
Lovanium University
Known forEbola Prevention & Treatment
AwardsChristophe Mérieux Prize (2015)
Royal Society Africa Prize (2015)
Scientific career
InstitutionsDemocratic Republic of the Congo National Institute for Biomedical Research

Jean-Jacques Muyembe is the General Director of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Institut National pour la Recherche Biomedicale (INRB). He was part of team at the Yambuku Catholic Mission Hospital that investigated the first Ebola outbreak, and was part of the effort that discovered Ebola as a new disease.[1] In August 2019, he led the research that discovered the most effective treatment for Ebola, mAb114, working with other researchers at the INRB and the National Institute of Health Vaccine Research Center in the US.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Muyembe grew up in Bandundu Province, the child of farmers. He was educated in schools run by Jesuits. He studied medicine at the Lovanium University in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he became interested in microbiology and graduated in 1962.[3] He earned a PhD in virology at the University of Leuven in Belgium, working on viral infections with mouse models.[3][4] He returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1973 and worked in outbreak control.[5] In 1974 there was a cholera outbreak in Matadi, which was the first crisis that Muyembe worked on.[4]


Scanning electron micrograph of the Ebola virus in a African green monkey kidney cell

Muyembe was described by The Lancet as Africa's Ebola hunter.[5] He first came across ebola virus in 1976 at a Belgian hospital in Yambuku.[5][6] Using a long steel rod, Muyembe took liver biopsies from three nuns who had died, but the results were inconclusive. He was the first scientist to come into contact with the virus and survive.[7] Muyembe has been described as one of the discoverers of Ebola due to his work in the 1976 outbreak.[1] He took the blood of a sick nurse, which was sent for analysis at the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, then to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where Peter Piot used the sample to discover Ebola.[5] He was appointed the Dean of the University of Kinshasa Medical School in 1978.[4] In 1981 Muyembe joined the Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal, working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the ebola and marburg virus.[4] In 1998 he was made the Director of the Democratic Republic of the Congo National Institute for Biomedical Research.[8]

He has acted as an adviser to the World Health Organization Emergency Committee on Ebola.[9] Here he leads 15 researchers studying sleeping sickness, bas-Congo virus and the ebola.[9] He has advised political leadership in West Africa.[10]

He recognised the sociocultural challenges of ebola, trying to encourage hospitals improve their infection control and community engagement.[5] He worked with David L. Heymann on the ebola outbreak in 1995.[5] He was called by the Director of the Kikwit General Hospital who was asking for help with an outbreak of deadly diarrhea. When Muyembe arrived, he recognised it was ebola, and sent samples for confirmation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[4] He has chaired the international committees that looked to control the Ebola outbreaks in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[3] He leads research into the reservoirs of the ebola virus in the DRC.[3] In 2009 he demonstrated that the ebola outbreaks in the DRC were due to fruit bat exposure.[11] He has developed an anti-Ebola serum therapy.[12] There was a further ebola outbreak in 2018, which took time to control due to delays in reporting.[13] The Wellcome Trust and Department for International Development donated £1 million each.[13] He pioneered the use of an ebola vaccine to limit the spread of the virus, including vaccinating health professionals.[14][15]

Muyembe has established multiple research facilities, including a polio and influenza lab. In 2017 he partnered with the Japan International Cooperation Agency to build a research complex with several biosafety labs.[3] As of 2018, the DRC still have none of their own labs to test for ebola.[3]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 2015 he was awarded the Christophe Mérieux Prize to study further research in the Congo Basin.[5][16] That year he was awarded the Royal Society Africa Prize "for his seminal work on viral haemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola, generating the foundation of our understanding of the epidemiology, clinical manifestations and control of outbreaks of these viral infections".[8][17][18][19] He was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 International Symposium on Filoviruses. In 2018 he was named as one of Nature's 10.[20]

In 2019 he won the Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize from the Government of Japan.[21]


  1. ^ a b "This Congolese Doctor Discovered Ebola But Never Got Credit For It — Until Now". Retrieved 2019-11-05.
  2. ^ Corti D, Misasi J, Mulangu S, Stanley DA, Kanekiyo M, Wollen S, et al. (March 2016). "Protective monotherapy against lethal Ebola virus infection by a potently neutralizing antibody". Science. 351 (6279): 1339–42. Bibcode:2016Sci...351.1339C. doi:10.1126/science.aad5224. PMID 26917593.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "WHO | Jean-Jacques Muyembe". WHO. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  4. ^ a b c d e "WHO | Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum: a life's work on Ebola". WHO. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Honigsbaum, Mark (2015). "Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum: Africa's veteran Ebola hunter". The Lancet. 385 (9986): 2455. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)61128-X. PMID 26122060.
  6. ^ Rosello, Alicia; Mossoko, Mathias; Flasche, Stefan; Van Hoek, Albert Jan; Mbala, Placide; Camacho, Anton; Funk, Sebastian; Kucharski, Adam; Ilunga, Benoit Kebela; Edmunds, W John; Piot, Peter; Baguelin, Marc; Muyembe Tamfum, Jean-Jacques (2015). "Ebola virus disease in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1976-2014". eLife. 4. doi:10.7554/eLife.09015. PMC 4629279. PMID 26525597.
  7. ^ McNeish, Hannah (2017-03-24). "He Treated The Very First Ebola Cases 40 Years Ago. Then He Watched The World Forget". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  8. ^ a b "Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum, MD, PhD « ICREID". Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  9. ^ a b "Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe-Tamfum | Royal Society". Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  10. ^ Stokes, Elaisha (2014-10-24). "How the Democratic Republic of Congo Fought A Different Ebola Outbreak". Vice News. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  11. ^ Leroy, Eric M.; Epelboin, Alain; Mondonge, Vital; Pourrut, Xavier; Gonzalez, Jean-Paul; Muyembe-Tamfum, Jean-Jacques; Formenty, Pierre (2009). "Human Ebola Outbreak Resulting from Direct Exposure to Fruit Bats in Luebo, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2007". Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases. 9 (6): 723–728. doi:10.1089/vbz.2008.0167. PMID 19323614.
  12. ^ "Jean-Jacques Muyembe receives the Christophe Merieux prize - gdri-ehede". Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  13. ^ a b Yong, Ed (2018-05-11). "The New Ebola Outbreak Could Take 'Three, Maybe Four' Months to Control". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  14. ^ ""Ebola resurgit car nous ne connaissons pas son réservoir"". BBC News Afrique. 2018-05-18. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  15. ^ Robert, Alexis; Camacho, Anton; Edmunds, W John; Baguelin, Marc; Muyembe Tamfum, Jean-Jacques; Rosello, Alicia; Keita, Sakoba; Eggo, Rosalind M. (2018). "Effect of vaccinating health care workers to control Ebola virus disease: A modelling analysis of outbreak data". doi:10.1101/113506. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  16. ^ Institut de France, Jean-Jacques Muyembe Tamfum, lauréat du Prix Christophe Mérieux 2015., retrieved 2018-12-21
  17. ^ "Ghanaian scientist wins 2015 Royal Society Pfizer Early Career Award". 2015-08-20. Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  18. ^ The Royal Society Pfizer Award. The Royal Society.
  19. ^ "Royal Society Pfizer Awards, 19th October 2015 | Alsford Lab". Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  20. ^ "Nature's 10". Retrieved 2018-12-21.
  21. ^ "Laureates of the Third Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Retrieved 2 October 2019.