The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) have launched a network of laboratories to reinforce genome sequencing of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, in Africa.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said this in Cape Town, South Africa.
Twelve reference laboratories in various African countries will provide sequencing, data analysis and technical support services to the rest of the continent, the two organisations announced in a joint statement.
“As we continue to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa, being able to not only track its evolution but also assess the possible mutation of the virus is crucial to mounting an effective response,” said Dr Moeti.
“Through this new laboratory network dedicated to genome sequencing, we can better develop vaccines and treatment which are tailored to Africans and eventually bring COVID-19 under control.”
The laboratory network will also inform the development of vaccines and treatment of Covid-19 in a way tailored to Africans, Moeti said.
More than 2,000 sequences from 18 countries – Algeria, Benin, Cameroun, DRC, Egypt, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia – have already been generated, he said.
Dr John Nkengasong, Director of Africa CDC, said the establishment of the COVID-19 sequencing network will help countries to effectively manage and control the pandemic.
“In 2019, Africa CDC launched the Institute for Pathogen Genomics to support the integration of pathogen genomics and bioinformatics into public health surveillance, outbreak detection and investigations, and improve disease control and prevention in Africa. The establishment of the COVID-19 sequencing network will help improve surveillance in the continent and help countries to effectively manage and control the pandemic. As the COVID-19 pandemic curve flattens in Africa, we must be prepared for a possible resurgence as already observed in some countries. With genomic sequencing we can have a better understanding of the pandemic through more precise identification of transmission clusters,” said .
According to the statement, the WHO and Africa CDC partnership to establish a COVID-19 sequencing laboratory network is very important in determining the response to a given SARS-CoV-2 strain and in helping countries manage localized or imported transmission.
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