ETHIOPIA – The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) conducted its inaugural data curation workshop to expand capacity and support for pathogen genomics across Africa from June 18-20, 2024. 

The three-day event, held in collaboration with the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), National Library of Medicine, USA, brought together participants from public health laboratories in 20 Member States.

The workshop, which is integral to the Africa CDC’s African Pathogen Data Sharing and Archive Platform (Agari), marks the first of its kind offered by the organization. 

It aims to accelerate data verification and validation before sharing for public health use. 

Agari is a continental platform intended for use by national public health institutions, national reference laboratories, research and academic institutions from around Africa to upload, manage, and share pathogen sequence and associated metadata to effectively respond to public health threats across Member States in a coordinated manner.

“Data curation is key to the successful set-up and use of Agari as it ensures the accuracy and usability of public health data put into the system,” said Professor Alan Christoffels, director of the South African National Bioinformatics Institute and a senior advisor in genomics and bioinformatics to the Africa CDC. 

Christoffels noted that trained data curators and training in data curation are both hard to come by in Africa.

The workshop served as the first steps in building a community of data curators in Africa to support reproducible data for public health use and benefit sharing. 

The training comprised a series of lectures combined with extended hands-on sessions, exploring established best practices in data curation and web-based data curation tools.

Olusola Anuoluwapo, head of the genomics unit at Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Abuja, attended the workshop and shared her insights.

“One take-home message for us is that we get to collect a lot of samples in the field and get those analyzed and published, but we forget the metadata, which renders our samples or efforts futile and then cannot link our results to where it’s from,” she said.

Tholwana Pelokgosi, who handles biological data at the National Public Laboratory in Botswana, also participated in the workshop. 

She expressed her appreciation for the knowledge gained about the NCBI database, such as the GenBank and PubMed, stating that understanding these resources will help streamline data retrieval and analysis better.

The workshop follows recommendations from the Public Health Alliance for Genomic Epidemiology (PHA4GE) data curation technical working group to develop the initial quality controls for data to be deposited into Agari. 

The team included members from SANBI, PHA4GE, the Mozambiquan Instituto Nacional De Saúde, Morocco’s Institut Pasteur du Maroc, the National Institute of Public Health in Uganda, and Senegal’s Institut Pasteur Dakar.

“This workshop is part of the Africa PGI plan to train 100 data curators every year to accelerate and ensure genomic data quality in Africa,” says Dr. Harris Onywera, bioinformatics data scientist at the Africa CDC.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) is the African Union’s continental autonomous public health agency that supports member states in strengthening health systems and improving surveillance, emergency response, and prevention and control of diseases.

For all the latest healthcare industry news from Africa and the World, subscribe to our NEWSLETTER, and YouTube Channel, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, and like us on Facebook