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Genomics Laboratory manager Lawrence Fakoli III carries out SARS-CoV-2 sequencing protocols while Francis Jaryan observes. PC: Holly Lutz

The National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, oversees infection prevention and control efforts, reference laboratories, infectious disease surveillance and control, public health capacity building, response to outbreaks, and monitoring of diseases with epidemic potential. In 2020, NPHIL teamed up with WARN-ID to expand diagnostics for febrile illnesses, and surveillance of infectious diseases in Liberia.

Andersen Lab postdoc, Holly Lutz, traveled to NPHIL in June to assist with the 6 week WARN-ID Genomic Epidemiology Workshop, set up of a newly delivered benchtop iSeq 100 sequencing platform, facilitate SARS-CoV-2 sequencing and prepare upcoming research studies within Liberia. 

The WARN-ID Genomic Epidemiology workshop leveraged recent advances in targeted sequencing approaches for SARS-CoV-2 developed with support from the NIAID-funded CREID network to support real-time viral surveillance and epidemiological modeling. The workshop, which was attended by 15 NPHIL scientists, continues a strong history of international collaboration driven by NPHIL.

NPHIL scientists unbox a new Illumina iSeq in the Genomics Laboratory. PC: Holly Lutz

Participants in the workshop received instruction in comprehensive wet-lab, bioinformatic, and statistical methods for assessing viral evolutionary dynamics using the recent SARS-CoV-2 outbreak as a model. In addition to hands-on training on-site, WARN-ID provided supplies and reagents to expand NPHIL’s capacity to sequence SARS-CoV-2 and other pathogens of human health significance in the region. (7 trunks of supplies were hand-delivered to NPHIL by Holly on this trip!)

The long-term goals of this collaboration include enhancing NPHIL’s bioinformatic capacities and leveraging the extensive experience of local scientists with sustained support to prevent and control public health threats to Liberian citizens. To this end, Holly and the WARN-ID network are developing programs for surveillance in both human and wildlife populations to better understand the ecology of viral pathogens of zoonotic origin.