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Zimbabwe moves to strengthen genomic surveillance

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  One of the valuable tools in the global regional and national response to the COVID 19 pandemic is genomic surveillance Genomic sequencing is a process used by scientists and public health experts to track the spread of viruses how viruses are changing and how those changes may affect public health Information from genetic surveillance used in conjunction with clinical and epidemiological data guides the development of vaccines therapeutics diagnostic trials as well as decisions on public health and social measures Zimbabwe has registered five variants of SARS Cov 2 the virus that causes COVID 19 since the start of the pandemic and the Ministry of Health and Child Care MoHCC introduced genome sequencing in May 2021 This was done by repurposing laboratory departments that had hitherto been devoted to other viral diseases To support the ongoing effort to strengthen Zimbabwe s genomic sequencing capacity MoHCC with the support of the World Health Organization WHO conducted a COVID 19 genomic surveillance situation analysis from 10 to 19 July 2022 The exercise aimed to identify successes gaps and challenges faced so far and make recommendations to further strengthen genomic surveillance capacity in Zimbabwe In addition the visit was also in line with the WHO s ongoing efforts to strengthen genomic surveillance in the African region The visit of the WHO AFRO genome sequencing experts was welcome and timely as it gave us the opportunity to identify gaps and strengthen our genomic surveillance said Dr Raiva Simbi MoHCC Director of Laboratory Services With the recent resurgence of Marburg virus and monkeypox in the region it is important for us to strengthen our sequencing capacity beyond COVID 19 for other diseases At the start of the mission the Ministry of Health and Child Care convened a stakeholder meeting during which WHO AFRO experts discussed with partners supporting genomic surveillance and other key areas of the COVID 19 response in Zimbabwe These partners include the African Centers for Disease Control Africa CDC the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology AiBST the African Society for Laboratory Medicine ASLM the Biomedical Training and Research Institute BRTI the City Health Departments the Clinical Trials Research Center UZCHS CTRC the Clinton Health Access Initiative CHAI and Cordaid Also Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation EGPAF Global Fund GF UNICEF UNDP US Center for Disease Control CDC World Bank and WHO The meeting was followed by supportive on site visits to four laboratories including the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory NMRL Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital Laboratory Mbare Poly Clinic and Upper East Laboratory a tour by the COVID 19 testing clinic The visits were made to appreciate the available infrastructure and to understand how the sample reference system and processing works from the point of collection to the NRML where the genomic sequencing is performed The mission ended with a briefing where the team presented their findings and recommendations to the MoHCC and its partners The mission appreciated the commendable work done by both the surveillance pillar and the laboratory pillar as well as the strong public private sector laboratory collaboration The mission also noted that Zimbabwe is well trained in sequencing and has acquired basic knowledge in sequencing and bioinformatics analysis Key recommendations included incorporating genomic surveillance into the national budget to promote sustainability It was also recommended to partner with local research labs and universities to train and build a workforce with expertise in genomic surveillance Financial support for genome sequencing through WHO is being provided by the African Development Bank as well as Health Pool Fund donors including the European Union and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office FCDO The mission was an eye opener on all the capabilities already established within the country Zimbabwe has already done a lot to institutionalize genomic surveillance and to build on these achievements the country must continue to screen samples for new variants and monitor the population for outbreaks said Rachel Aquilla AFRO Laboratory Medical Officer for Zimbabwe The OMS
Zimbabwe moves to strengthen genomic surveillance

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Ministry of Health and Child Care

One of the valuable tools in the global, regional and national response to the COVID-19 pandemic is genomic surveillance.

naija news today

Genomic sequencing is a process used by scientists and public health experts to track the spread of viruses, how viruses are changing, and how those changes may affect public health.

naija news today

Information from genetic surveillance, used in conjunction with clinical and epidemiological data, guides the development of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostic trials, as well as decisions on public health and social measures.

Zimbabwe has registered five variants of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, since the start of the pandemic, and the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) introduced genome sequencing in May 2021.

This was done by repurposing laboratory departments that had hitherto been devoted to other viral diseases.

To support the ongoing effort to strengthen Zimbabwe’s genomic sequencing capacity, MoHCC, with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO), conducted a COVID-19 genomic surveillance situation analysis from 10 to 19 July 2022.

The exercise aimed to identify successes, gaps and challenges faced so far and make recommendations to further strengthen genomic surveillance capacity in Zimbabwe.

In addition, the visit was also in line with the WHO‘s ongoing efforts to strengthen genomic surveillance in the African region.

“The visit of the WHO/AFRO genome sequencing experts was welcome and timely, as it gave us the opportunity to identify gaps and strengthen our genomic surveillance,” said Dr. Raiva Simbi, MoHCC Director of Laboratory Services.

“With the recent resurgence of Marburg virus and monkeypox in the region, it is important for us to strengthen our sequencing capacity beyond COVID-19 for other diseases.”

At the start of the mission, the Ministry of Health and Child Care convened a stakeholder meeting during which WHO/AFRO experts discussed with partners supporting genomic surveillance and other key areas of the COVID-19 response in Zimbabwe.

These partners include the African Centers for Disease Control (Africa CDC), the African Institute of Biomedical Science and Technology (AiBST), the African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM), the Biomedical Training and Research Institute (BRTI), the City Health Departments, the Clinical Trials Research Center (UZCHS-CTRC), the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and Cordaid.

Also Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), Global Fund (GF), UNICEF, UNDP, US Center for Disease Control (CDC), World Bank and WHO.

The meeting was followed by supportive on-site visits to four laboratories, including the National Microbiology Reference Laboratory (NMRL), Beatrice Road Infectious Diseases Hospital Laboratory, Mbare Poly Clinic and Upper East Laboratory, a tour by the COVID-19 testing clinic.

The visits were made to appreciate the available infrastructure and to understand how the sample reference system and processing works from the point of collection to the NRML where the genomic sequencing is performed.

The mission ended with a briefing where the team presented their findings and recommendations to the MoHCC and its partners.

The mission appreciated the commendable work done by both the surveillance pillar and the laboratory pillar, as well as the strong public-private sector laboratory collaboration.

The mission also noted that Zimbabwe is well trained in sequencing and has acquired basic knowledge in sequencing and bioinformatics analysis.

Key recommendations included incorporating genomic surveillance into the national budget to promote sustainability.

It was also recommended to partner with local research labs and universities to train and build a workforce with expertise in genomic surveillance.

Financial support for genome sequencing through WHO is being provided by the African Development Bank, as well as Health Pool Fund donors including the European Union and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

“The mission was an eye opener on all the capabilities already established within the country.

Zimbabwe has already done a lot to institutionalize genomic surveillance, and to build on these achievements, the country must continue to screen samples for new variants and monitor the population for outbreaks,” said Rachel Aquilla, AFRO Laboratory Medical Officer for Zimbabwe.

The OMS.

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