World Health Organization starts a network to find diseases that could spread.
GENEVA: On Saturday, the World Health Organization started a global network to help quickly find infectious diseases like Covid-19 that pose a threat and share information to stop them from spreading.
The agency said that the International Pathogen Surveillance Network (IPSN) will be a way for countries and regions to join, making it easier to collect and analyze samples.
The goal of the network is to make sure that infectious disease threats are quickly found, tracked, and shared so that disasters like the Covid outbreak can be avoided.
Pathogen genomics will be used by the network to look at the genetic code of viruses, bacteria, and other disease-causing organisms to figure out how dangerous and contagious they are and how they spread.
The information gathered will be added to a larger disease monitoring system that is used to find and track diseases so that outbreaks can be stopped and treatments and vaccines can be made.
The head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, praised the new network’s “ambitious” goals and said it could “play a key role in health security.”
“The Covid-19 pandemic showed us so clearly that the world is stronger when it works together to fight health threats that affect everyone,” he said.
The IPSN will have a secretariat in the WHO’s Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence. This was announced a day before the yearly meeting of WHO member states starts in Geneva.
It is the latest of a number of projects that have been started since Covid to make the world better able to stop pandemics and respond to them more effectively.
The network will bring together experts from government, academia, the business sector, and other places who know about genomics and data analytics.
“All have the same goal, which is to find disease threats and deal with them before they become epidemics or pandemics, and to improve routine disease surveillance,” the agency said.
Covid showed how important pathogen genomics is when reacting to threats of pandemics. For example, the WHO said that if the SARS CoV-2 virus hadn’t been quickly sequenced, vaccines wouldn’t have been as effective and wouldn’t have been available as quickly. Also, it would have taken longer to find new forms of the virus that were easier to spread.
“Genomics is at the heart of being ready for and responding to epidemics and pandemics,” the agency said, adding that it was also important for keeping an eye on diseases like HIV and the flu.
Even though the pandemic made countries increase their genomes capabilities, the agency warned that many still don’t have good ways to collect and analyze samples.
Tedros said that these problems could be solved with the help of the IPSN because it could “give every country access to pathogen genomic sequencing and analytics as part of its public health system.”