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May 29, 2023
The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched a global network called the International Pathogen Surveillance Network (IPSN) in collaboration with partners to protect people from the threat of infectious diseases. The IPSN is a platform connecting countries and regions to enhance systems for sample collection, analysis, public health data-driven decision-making and broad information sharing. The network aims to make pathogen genome sequencing and analysis available to every country as part of its public health system, with the ultimate goal of identifying and responding to disease threats before they escalate into epidemics or pandemics.
Pathogen genomics involves studying the genetic code of viruses, bacteria and other disease-causing organisms to gain insight into their infectiousness, lethality and modes of transmission. This information can help scientists and public health officials identify and monitor diseases, prevent and respond to outbreaks, and facilitate the development of effective treatments and vaccines.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights the critical role of pathogen genomics in responding to global health crises. Rapid sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 genome has played a key role in the development and timely deployment of an effective vaccine, as well as in identifying new, more infectious variants of the virus. Genomic analysis is central to epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response, and extends to surveillance of a wide range of diseases such as foodborne illness, influenza, tuberculosis, and HIV.
Despite advances in genomics capacity during pandemics, many countries still lack effective systems for sample collection, analysis,and data utilization in public health decision-making. Inadequate sharing of data, practices, and innovations hinders the establishment of a robust global health surveillance architecture. Additionally, budget cuts are facing significant cuts, even in high-income countries, which could hinder progress in public health surveillance and response efforts.
IPSN brings together leading experts in genomics and data analysis from various sectors, including governments, philanthropic foundations, multilateral organizations, civil society, academia, and the private sector. This collaborative effort aims to optimize routine disease surveillance activities and respond to disease threats before they escalate into epidemics or pandemics.
In conclusion, the International Pathogen Surveillance Network is a critical step towards improving global health surveillance and response efforts. By harnessing the power of pathogen genomics and facilitating global collaboration, IPSN aims to prevent and respond to disease threats before they become epidemics or pandemics, thus protecting people worldwide from the threat of infectious diseases.