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WHO releases 10-year strategy for genomic surveillance of pathogens
One in three countries do not have the capacity to use this critical tool
30 March 2022 News release
…Genomic surveillance is the process of constantly monitoring pathogens and analyzing their genetic similarities and differences. It helps researchers, epidemiologists and public health officials to monitor the evolution of infectious diseases agents, alert on the spread of pathogens, and develop counter measures like vaccines.
The Global genomic surveillance strategy for pathogens with pandemic and epidemic potential 2022–2032 is not specific to a single pathogen or disease threat. It provides a high-level unifying framework to leverage existing capacities, address barriers and strengthen the use of genomic surveillance worldwide.
Data collected by WHO show that in March 2021, 54% of countries had this capacity. By January 2022, thanks to the major investments made during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number had increased to 68%. Even greater gains were made in the public sharing of sequence data: in January 2022, 43% more countries published their sequence data compared to a year before.
Despite this fast progress, much remains to be done. Any new technology comes with the risk of increasing inequity, which is one of the gaps this strategy targets. Various public health programmes – from Ebola to cholera – use genomic surveillance to understand a pathogen at its molecular level, but COVID-19 has highlighted the challenges of bringing genomics to scale.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said, “The complexities of genomics and the challenges of sustaining capacities in different settings, including workforce needs, means that most countries cannot develop these capabilities on their own. The global strategy helps keep our eyes on the horizon and provides a unifying framework for action. WHO looks forward to working with countries and partners in this important and highly dynamic field,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “We will do best if we work together.”…
Global genomic surveillance strategy for pathogens with pandemic and epidemic potential, 2022–2032 [WHO]
28 March 2022 32 pages
The Strategy provides a high-level unifying framework to leverage existing capacities, address barriers and strengthen the use of genomic surveillance in the detection, monitoring and response to public health threats. Genomic surveillance is part of the broader surveillance and laboratory system, and its implementation should reinforce end-to-end capacities including sample collection, diagnostics, data sharing and analysis. The strategy aims to facilitate the connectivity between different disease control programs and surveillance networks. This interoperability will strengthen the cross-cutting essential public health laboratory functions underpinning genomics holistically. The strategy articulates the overarching goal, objectives and strategic actions needed. These are dependent on commitments from countries, partners and WHO for their implementation.