The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Thursday launched a network of laboratories to reinforce genome sequencing of the virus that causes COVID-19.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said this Cape Town.
12 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 Ms Moeti.
The laboratory network will also inform the development of vaccines and treatment of COVID-19 in a way tailored to Africans, Ms Moeti said.
So far, 10 lineages of the virus have been identified in Africa, which helps to track the spread of the virus across borders, according to the statement.
For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and South Africa are experiencing localised transmission.
But there is also the importation of cases into the DRC from Ghana, Morocco and Senegal.
“The establishment of the COVID-19 sequencing network will help improve surveillance … With genomic sequencing, we can have a better understanding of the pandemic through more precise identification of transmission clusters,” said Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong.
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.