The Journey to Liberia’s Genomic Sequencing capability for COVID-19 and different precedence ailments | WHO

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National Reference Lab Technician preparing samples for sequencing

In a quickly altering world the place rising and re-emerging ailments pose potential dangers to public well being, genomic sequencing has been recognized as one of many instruments that aids within the fast identification of variants of concern, improvement of diagnostic checks and different outbreak administration instruments. Genomic sequencing expertise is comparatively new in lots of African nations, and its significance grew to become extra pronounced in 2021 following the circulation of the COVID-19 variants of concern (Delta, Alpha and Beta).

On February eighth, 2021, Liberia despatched its first batch of 20 COVID-19 samples to the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Analysis (NMIMR) in Accra, Ghana, for sequencing. The launched outcomes revealed the presence of the Alpha variant. Subsequent batches of samples sequenced indicated the presence of the Delta variant, which was linked to the rise in COVID-19 instances and illness severity between Might to July 2021 whereas the spike in instances in 2022, as a consequence of Omicron variant that was additionally detected. Nonetheless, the turnaround time for outcomes typically took as much as 12 weeks, hampering well timed surveillance and decision-making efforts through the pandemic response. This prompted the Ministry of Well being to request help from the World Well being Group (WHO) and companions in constructing in-country capability for genomic sequencing.

Initially, WHO supported the coaching of workers on the Nationwide Reference Laboratory, equipping them with the required expertise to conduct genomic sequencing, together with bioinformatics evaluation. With help from USAID, WHO offered important tools, infrastructure, and consumable provides, together with the set up of a excessive tetra laptop, an on premise information server, an influence financial institution system, an uninterrupted energy provide (UPS), and a sequencing machine, reagents, and consumables. The sequencing platform was established, and safety measures have been strengthened with enhanced doorways and home windows. “We think about WHO our mom unit for well being. Members of our workforce underwent coaching in Ghana, Nigeria, and Gambia on bioinformatics and genomic sequencing. As a hub that providers all well being amenities throughout Liberia, together with non-public amenities, we’re comfortable that with the arrival of those subtle machines, we will run our checks in-country, and outcomes might be made out there within the shortest potential time in comparison with the previous”, mentioned Mr. Aaron T. Momolu, Laboratory Technician for High quality Diagnostics on the Nationwide Reference Laboratory.

The WHE Staff Lead for WHO Liberia , Dr. Julius Monday, believes this can be a step in the correct course in combating pandemics and epidemics, “Enhancing surveillance by means of strengthened pathogen genomic sequencing that’s built-in into the broader public well being structure, will improve Liberia’s Built-in Illness Surveillance and Response (IDSR) effectiveness consistent with the Reworking African Surveillance Programs and International Genomic Surveillance Technique for pathogens with pandemic and epidemic potential 2022–2032 initiatives,” said Dr. Monday.

With the newly established amenities, Liberia not solely gained the flexibility to conduct genomic sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus but in addition expanded its capabilities for different epidemic and pandemic-prone ailments equivalent to influenza, Lassa fever, M-pox, measles, and Ebola Virus Illness. This broader sequencing functionality holds large potential for enhancing illness surveillance and response within the nation.

In the course of the handover ceremony of the sequencing tools and provides, Dr. Clement Peter, WHO Consultant to Liberia, expressed his enjoyment of making this significant contribution to the nation. “With these investments, Liberia now joins different African nations conducting genomic sequencing within the area to allow efficient detection and response to SARS-CoV-2 variants and different epidemic and pandemic-prone ailments, which is able to drastically enhance the standard and effectiveness of illness surveillance within the nation. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the significance of monitoring the virus variants for public well being. Whereas WHO has supported the institution of genomic sequencing capability within the nation, there’s a want to think about how you can maintain it within the occasion of future outbreaks,” mentioned Dr. Peter.

The institution of in-country genomic sequencing capability will remodel Liberia’s response to COVID-19 and different precedence ailments by linking genomic sequencing information with surveillance and case administration for well timed and acceptable response measures. Furthermore, the long-term advantages prolong to alternatives equivalent to vaccine improvement.

Expressing her pleasure, Dr. Jane A. MaCauley, Director-Common of the Nationwide Public Well being Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), is optimistic that the help will elevate Liberia’s decision-making on preparedness and response to public well being threats. “Liberia appreciates the help from WHO to determine genomic sequencing capabilities for each COVID-19 and different precedence ailments, together with antimicrobial resistance, utilizing a One Well being strategy. The bioinformatics and information server capacities constructed will assist analyze and interpret the sequencing information for well timed decision-making and actions”, mentioned Dr. MaCauley

By collaborative efforts, WHO and USAID have empowered Liberia to beat the challenges of delayed genomic sequencing for COVID-19 and different infectious ailments. The funding in infrastructure, coaching, tools, and provides has not solely strengthened Liberia’s  Capability for genomic surveillance of variants of concern for COVID-19 but in addition paved the way in which for improved precedence ailments surveillance, early detection of rising variants of concern, resulting in more practical public well being interventions.

WHO is partnering with African nations to reinforce pathogen surveillance by means of genome sequencing, with a present whole of 41 established laboratories. This collaborative effort goals to detect and reply effectively to COVID-19 variants. Liberia’s journey serves as a beacon of hope, demonstrating the transformative influence of constructing native capability within the face of worldwide well being challenges.


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