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National Reference Laboratory to provide genomics sequencing capacity for COVID-19 in Africa

The National Reference Laboratory (NRL), has been selected as one of 12 laboratories in Africa that will provide genomic sequencing capacity for the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the continent.

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu
Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Chief Executive Officer, NCDC

Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), disclosed this in an interview on Saturday, September 12, 2020 in Abuja.

The COVID-19 genome sequencing laboratory network was launched with several African countries alongside Nigeria by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Africa Centre for Disease Control.

A statement jointly issued by both organisations had explained that the network of laboratories had been established to reinforce genome sequencing of the virus on the continent.

According to the Director, Africa CDC and WHO Regional Director, this partnership is important in determining the response to various SARS-CoV-2 strains and in helping countries manage localised or imported transmission.

“Genomic sequencing provides better understanding of the pandemic through more precise identification of transmission clusters.”

Ihekweazu said that, over the last four years, they have focused on establishing the research functions of the NCDC National Reference Laboratory.

According to the NCDC DG, these functions include our genetic sequencing capacity, biobanking and similar functions.

“We are proud that we can now use this capacity to not only serve Nigerians, but to support neighbouring countries in West Africa,” he said.

He furthermore appreciated the Africa CDC and WHO for the support provided thus far.

Ihekweazu said that the agency is committed to working together for the benefit of the region.

These laboratories selected will henceforth provide capacity for sequencing of the virus and not just molecular detection.

Sequencing of the virus will provide additional insights needed for the development of vaccines, therapeutics and other tools required by the African region to fight this pandemic.

Genomic sequencing is also used to understand the occurence of virus mutation and develop the required response to this.

By Abujah Racheal

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