ABU DHABI, 23rd June, 2022 (WAM) — Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre recently hosted a two-week-long workshop to train staff from regional National Influenza Centres in the sequencing and analysis of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19.
The event took place at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), part of the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), and was held in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Ministry of Health (MoH), Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC) and the WHO Regional Office for the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO). It featured medical staff from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Libya and Sudan.
During the workshop, Dr. Francis Selvaraj, Senior Research Scientist at SKMC, alongside Dr. Antoine Aboufayad and Dr. Rabeh Elshesheny from the WHO, trained attendees on the approved protocol for sequencing SARS-CoV-2 to determine the virus’ lineage and identify emerging mutations and new strains.
The Department of Health and ADPHC have been working with SKMC’s Surveillance Laboratory, which acts as the UAE’s National Influenza Centre, on a genomic surveillance project since the start of 2021. In partnership with the WHO, the project has been sequencing samples from countries in the region that lack the necessary lab capacity while also monitoring circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2 within the UAE.
Dr. Farida Al Hosani, Executive Director of Infectious Diseases and Official Spokesperson for the UAE Health Sector, said, “Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre has played a vital role in training regional laboratories on next-generation sequencing aids. Virus genome sequencing is a powerful tool in the diagnosis of COVID-19 and in comprehending the spread and control of the novel mutated strains. Long-term, this will enable public health authorities to improve precision, efficacy, and efficiency of public health decision-making responses.”
She added, “The workshop was a collaborative success, and I would like to extend my gratitude to all of the participants for attending. We continue working for hand by hand to combat the pandemic.”
Dr. Stefan Weber, acting Medical Director of the Reference Laboratory for Infectious Diseases, stated, “The skill of sequencing is crucial to the current pandemic. Every participant has a high responsibility when they go back to their home countries in helping them to spread these skills.”
Dr. Selvaraj said that this workshop took a crucial step towards understanding the virus and will help the region towards public health decisions. “The event was a resounding success and was quite a team effort – I would like to thank everyone who attended.”
Dr. Amal Barakat, Technical Officer, Infectious Hazard Preparedness Unit Health Emergencies Programme, WHO EMRO, said, “The main objective of the workshop is to understand how SARS-CoV-2 spreads and infects and identify any new emerging strains. “Our best chance in fighting the spread and emergence of new strains is to understand the strains present among us.”
The workshop was organised by Dr. Barakat; Dr. Stefan Weber, Consultant Microbiologist; and Sahar Ahmed Almarzooqi, Project Coordinator from SKMC.