By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
With several African countries now expanding COVID-19 testing, 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 in a statement issued yesterday said specialized and regional reference laboratories in the network will provide sequencing, data analysis and other technical support services to the countries where they are located as well as to neighbouring countries and countries in their sub-regions.
“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 Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.
“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.”
Ongoing sequencing is already providing crucial information for determining the type of SARS-CoV-2 lineage circulating in some countries.
WHO said that most of SARS-CoV-2 genomes circulating in Africa are assigned to the B.1 lineage which emerged from the epidemic in Europe.
In Africa, it said ten lineages have been identified and more than 80,000 sequences have been produced globally.