Track & Crack Epidemics: Surveillance and Genomics – webinar

The first cases of coronavirus emerged at the end of 2019 and within a few months, the disease spread all over the world. Officially called Covid-19, it was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020. Social isolation, quarantines, closed borders, curfews. Slowly, affected countries adopted similar policies in an attempt to contain the virus and avoid further deaths, while the impact for the global economy is yet to be calculated.

How can we monitor cases and control the dissemination of the virus if there aren’t enough tests, which lead to high levels of underreporting? What are the perspectives for the development of vaccines and efficient new drugs? To answer these questions, on April 2, 2020, we invited Dr. Ester Cerdeiro Sabino, a researcher at the University of Sao Paulo (USP) who coordinated the genome sequencing process of Covid-19 and Onicio Leal Neto, PhD, from the University of Zurich, who developed models to monitor and control epidemics.

Dr. Ester’s Cerdeiro Sabino’s previous work on dengue, yellow fever and zika allowed her and her team to quickly sequence Covid-19, within 48 hours of the first notification in Brazil. In the case of a pandemic, it is important to quickly identify the virus, in order to be able to understand how it works and how it spreads. Moreover, collaboration and open science are important as it allows for finding solutions faster.

Onicio Leal Neto on the other hand underlined the importance and relevance of participatory surveillance, which consists of citizens sharing their symptoms on a platform (website, app, phone calls or SMS) in order to allow public health authorities to monitor a disease. In return, citizens are also able to receive updates about the state of health in their regions. These platforms have been developed in many countries, taking into account data privacy issues (people can’t be identified). The objective is to help local authorities in tracking the disease, which may be Covid-19 or any other seasonal disease such as dengue fever or zika.

These initiatives have put scientific developments at the center of attention and bring citizens and science closer together as people not only hear about scientific progress but are also able to participate in initiatives such as participatory surveillance. These tools will be useful for tracking and monitoring diseases in the future.

Watch the whole webinar bellow: