NIGERIA – The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced that Nigeria is working on a strategy to integrate infectious diseases into the genomic surveillance in the country.

Given that genomic sequencing technology enhanced the fight against COVID-19 globally, the strategy is intended to improve preparedness and reinforce health security in Nigeria.

According to WHO, Nigeria has contributed immensely to the COVID-19 genomic sequencing database with about 7,000 sequences on the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID).

The global organization highlighted that these efforts are in line with the WHO Global genomic surveillance strategy for pathogens with pandemic and epidemic potential (2022–2032) that provides the procedure to strengthen and scale up genomic surveillance around the world.

Contributing to the plan, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), with support from the World Health Organization recently conducted a situation analysis of COVID-19 genomic surveillance in the country.

The venture was carried out by a team of technical experts from WHO’s Africa Regional and Nigeria Country Offices as well as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and other partners as part of efforts to reinforce genomic surveillance in the African region,” the agency said.

In addition, the NCDC has been at the forefront of supporting all the sub-national entities in health response and the facilities visited have the tendencies to improve pandemic preparedness in the country.

The WHO Nigeria Country Office has also been working closely with FMOH to enhance genomic surveillance with financial support from the African Development Bank and Health Pool Fund donors including the European Union and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, reiterated the importance of expanding sequencing capacity in Africa while stating that beefing-up genomic surveillance to improve biosecurity in Nigeria and the entire continent is one of WHO priorities.

With the reoccurrence of Lassa fever, monkeypox, and other infectious diseases, we need to strengthen our sequencing capacity beyond COVID-19 to other diseases, hence the need to consider other potential laboratories and strategies to expand its sequencing capacity,” he said. 

Dr. Kazadi Mulombo further emphasized that genomic surveillance is critical for early identification of emerging pathogens as well as preparation for any future outbreaks.

Nigeria is a large country, and if it can get it right with genomic sequencing, we will become well prepared in informing diagnostics, vaccine production, and biosecurity consciousness,” he concluded.

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