JAPAN – The Japanese government plans to launch an infectious diseases databank later this month, starting with a plan to collect data on 10,000 COVID-19 patients by next March, to help firms and universities develop effective treatments.

Under the project, the government seeks to first collect blood and saliva samples as well as the treatment records of COVID-19 patients and make them available for firms and universities researching the disease, possibly from this fall.

About 50 medical institutions are expected to join the project, and the databank will be managed by organizations including the National Center for Global Health and Medicine, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases and the University of Tokyo.

The databank will first accumulate samples and treatment data of COVID-19 patients already stored at each institution and start collecting samples as well as data on treatment, severity, vaccination records and genome analyses of new patients who give their consent.

It is hoped such samples and data will show what type of people tend to develop severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Universities and medical institutions in Japan have been managing data on infectious diseases separately, but they have faced problems such as having a limited number of people who analyze such data and being unable to keep samples when they run short of a research budget.

Throughout history, the Japanese have suffered numerous times from epidemics. In recent times they seem to have forgotten about the threat diseases can pose, though, finding it hard to imagine that the COVID-19 outbreak could lead to a declaration of emergency in their own country.

Japan’s highly urban and graying population presents ideal conditions for pathogenic viruses and at the moment, the state has recorded a total of 812,069 COVID-19 cases and 14,847 deaths.

Currently the World Health Organization (WHO) uses a centralized information system for infectious diseases (CISID) to collect, analyse and present data on infectious diseases in the WHO European Region.

The databank is used to provide a standardized, timely and complete picture of the epidemiology of important infectious diseases; indicate the burden they place on public health;

Identify more precisely the geographical areas where particular problems occur and action is particularly needed;

Allow sharing of data at the subnational level to identify specific geographic areas of risk and risk groups by age and gender; and

Rapidly to disseminate critical, timely information about infectious diseases to public health professionals through the CISID early warning system (EWS).