Strengthening the Malaria Genomics Workforce in East Africa
The Africa CDC – Africa Pathogen Genomics Initiative (Africa PGI) in collaboration with Infectious Diseases Research Collaboration (IDRC) in Uganda, the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) concluded a one-week hands-on training on Malaria Genomic Epidemiology and Data Analytics in Kampala, Uganda. A total of 34 participants from 7 African Union Member States successfully completed the training. Participating countries included Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, DRC, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Sudan. Participants were nominated from both research and public health institutions in these countries, with two training pathways tailored to the background and most pressing needs of the two groups.
The emergence and spread of drug-resistant malaria, mutated parasites that skip detection by commonly used rapid diagnostic tests, and the resurgence of malaria transmission in multiple countries are major threats to the control and ultimate elimination of malaria. A recent expansion of malaria genomics in Africa has enormous potential to help tackle these problems, but there is an urgent need to expand the workforce for the generation, analysis, interpretation and utilization of malaria molecular surveillance (MMS) data to fully realize this potential. To fill this gap, Africa CDC collaborated with IDRC, UCSF and JHU to develop and deploy an interactive, hands-on workshop, bringing together programmatic and research personnel to understand the uses of malaria genomics in augmenting public health surveillance, discuss the challenges in implementing such technology, and work together across institutions and countries to identity practical solutions.
“This training was a unique opportunity to bring together researchers and officers from the national malaria control program to support the expansion of malaria molecular surveillance to monitor the spread of drug and diagnostic resistance variants across Africa”, said Dr. Yenew Kebede, Head Division of Laboratory Systems and Networks and Acting Head of Division of Disease Surveillance and Intelligence at the Africa CDC. He further added, “The training will act as one of the avenues to bridge the gap between researchers who develop tools and generate data and the program officers who apply data to inform malaria control and elimination”.