Africa innovates Magazine -AI4DEV - Flipbook - Page 11
The scientists, who work at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR – College of Health
Sciences) and the West African Centre for Cell Biology of
Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP – College of Basic and
Applied Sciences) at the University, analyzed samples from
selected cases to gain a comprehensive understanding of
the variations of the virus that are present in the country.
Genome sequencing allows for the compilation of the
most comprehensive information about an organism’s genetic makeup. Using advanced next-generation sequencing methods, scientists are able to track and compare viral
mutations to understand the origins of imported strains
and to discover if any novel strains are emerging locally.
“The successful establishment of this sequencing
capability at University of Ghana is a significant milestone
in Ghana’s response to the pandemic, as it will strengthen
surveillance for tracking mutations of the virus and aid
in the tracing of the sources of community infections in
people with no known contact with confirmed cases,” says
Prof. Abraham Anang, Director of NMIMR.
W O R L D W I D E I M PA C T
Samples analyzed were taken from two travelers who
arrived in Ghana from the UK, one from Norway, one
from Hungary, one from India, and one traveler who
arrived from the United States through the United Arab
Emirates. Nine samples were taken from individuals who
had no travel history, who are believed to have acquired
the infection locally.
“The data tells us that, while there were some differences between the strains from the various countries,
all the 15 genomes generally resembled (with >92%
similarity) the reference strain that was isolated in the
Wuhan Province of China, where the outbreak began,”
says Prof. Gordon Awandare, Director of WACCBIP. “This
confirms that we are dealing with the same pathogen,
and that it has not yet changed its genetic makeup
significantly. It is natural that pathogens will evolve as
they encounter different environmental challenges, so
we will need to continue monitoring to keep track with
these changes and determine how they impact on the
efficacy of potential drugs or vaccines that are being
developed”, he adds.
The information from the sequence data has been
shared with scientists around the world through an open
access platform known as the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) database, where other
sequences from various countries are stored.
“The University of Ghana is proud to note that this feat
was achieved entirely by local scientists using established local capacity including our Next Generation
Sequencing Core and ‘Zuputo’, our High Performance
Computing system, which are jointly managed by
NMIMR and WACCBIP, with support from University of
Ghana Computing Systems,” says Prof. Ebenezer Oduro
Owusu, Vice Chancellor of the University. “We would like
to express our gratitude to the government of Ghana,
and all the funding agencies that have provided grants
to support the operations of our two flagship centres
of excellence for biomedical research,” the ViceChancellor adds.
SHOWCASING AFRICAN INNOVATION 11