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Enhancing capacities for respiratory disease surveillance in Africa: WHO GISRS conducts training for genetic characterization of influenza and SARS CoV-2.

25 May 2023 │ Departmental news

From 23-26 January 2023, laboratory specialists from nine countries in the WHO African Region gathered at the WHO-recognized National Influenza Centre (NIC) at Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) in Accra, Ghana for practical training on next-generation sequencing (NGS). The focus of the training was to enhance Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) laboratory capacities for characterization of influenza and SARS-CoV-2 using NGS as a component of global end-to-end integrated sentinel surveillance. 

Over the past two years, WHO has leveraged the capacities of GISRS to incorporate SARS-CoV-2 into sentinel surveillance for influenza, enabling transmission trends of SARS-CoV-2 to be monitored as part of the expanded global respiratory disease surveillance system. As part of this initiative WHO GISRS laboratories have been encouraged and supported to genetically characterize viruses, using NGS, influenza- and SARS-CoV-2 positive samples collected from sentinel surveillance.

In January 2023, the WHO Regional Office for Africa and the WHO Global Influenza Programme (GIP), in partnership with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Association of Public Health Laboratories, and the NIC at the NMIMR, Accra Ghana conducted a practical training on NGS, using the Oxford Nanopore Technologies platform, and bioinformatics to support and complement GISRS influenza and SARS-CoV-2 surveillance. Attendees included laboratory specialists from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia. The training was part of WHO’s broader efforts to support countries with implementing end-to-end integration of SARS-CoV-2 into their influenza surveillance schemes.

A future training for Francophone countries in the WHO African Region is planned for August 2023.