April 13. 2024. 6:37

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UK develops early warning system for future pandemics

British researchers are developing a system that could eventually be used to pinpoint emerging variants and act as an early warning system for new diseases and future pandemics.

The researchers, based at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridgeshire, “aim to develop tools to identify new viral threats as part of an early warning system to help prevent future pandemics.”

The technology would monitor genetic changes in respiratory viruses as they circulate the globe.

“Britain was at the leading edge of the genomic surveillance of COVID-19 and was responsible for about 20% of all the Sars-CoV-2 genomes that were sequenced across the planet during the pandemic,” said Ewan Harrison, who is leading the project, The Guardian reported.

In the EU, similar efforts are being made.

On 14 March, the EU Commission’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control agreed to strengthen cooperation and coordinate their work in support of health emergency preparedness and response in the area of medical countermeasures.

The British team want this system to be used globally, so they are working on making it cheap, fast, and easy to use. “In many labs around the world, people have smaller sequencing machines and cannot sequence as many samples as we can at the Sanger,” said John Sillitoe, leader of the Sanger Institute’s genomic surveillance unit, The Guardian reported.

“So we want the system to work equally well on those machines as it does here on our large volume devices,” he added.

(Sofia Stuart Leeson | EURACTIV.com)