Two officials complete lab training

Two Ministry of Health’s (MoH) representatives completed a three-week SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 Genomic Epidemiology training course organised through the United States (US) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conducted virtually by the US-based Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) and Theiagen Genomics, a company specialising in next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics.

The course, completed on September 30, will enable improved operation of the Brunei COVID-19 AirLab and the National Virology Reference Laboratory – two critical testing centres in the country’s battle against the pandemic.

Head of the National Clinical Microbiology Reference Laboratory Dr Muhd Haziq Fikry bin Haji Abdul Momin and scientific officer at the National Virology Reference Laboratory with the Department of Laboratory Services Nur Amirah binti Ibarahim were among 98 participants from 14 countries in Asia Pacific attending the virtual course. Both frontliners also work in the Brunei COVID-19 AirLab.

The training utilised the Terra-bio platform, which allowed participants to work hands-on with COVID-19 outbreak data and whole-genome sequences of SARS-CoV-2 to identify genomically linked clusters of COVID-19 outbreaks. The platform was developed by the Broad Institute at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University.

Through the course, participants learned new skills for genomic epidemiology to generate actionable public health data as it pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic response and other infectious disease-associated outbreaks.

Additionally, participants were able to visualise outbreak-specific data and assess for novel or emerging variants of COVID-19. Participants received ongoing access to resources and computational infrastructure thanks to a donation from Google.org, and will also receive ad-hoc support from the CDC and APHL.

The training course is part of the US efforts to strengthen multilateral cooperation to respond to and recover from COVID-19, through capacity-building on global health and global health security. In the recent United Nations General Assembly, US President Joe Biden underlined the US commitment to work with international partners to end the COVID-19 pandemic and build better health security to prevent and prepare for future biological threats.

Participants during the virtual course. PHOTOS: US EMBASSY IN BRUNEI DARUSSALAM