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Univ of Ghana scientists find vital information about behaviour of COVID-19

Scientists at the University of Ghana (UG) have revealed that they have made important progress in the fight against COVID-19 in Ghana.

According to the scientists, they have found vital information about the genetic composition of COVID-19 strains in Ghana.

This information they say would help them to gain a good understanding of different variations and behaviors of the disease in Ghana.

The information was obtained from viral strains in 15 of the confirmed cases in the country.

They made this known in a statement on Saturday. University’s Public Affairs Directorate  said the achievement was attained by scientists at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR – College of Health Sciences) and the West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens (WACCBIP – College of Basic and Applied Sciences).

This according to them is a huge progress to Ghana’s fight against the disease.

How was it done? (Credit: Graphic Online)

According to the statement the scientists have successfully sequenced genomes of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the global COVID-19 pandemic.

It explained that Genome sequencing allows for the compilation of the most comprehensive information about an organism‘s genetic makeup.

Using advanced next generation sequencing methods, scientists are able to track and compare viral mutations to understand the origins of imported strains and to discover if any novel strains are emerging locally.

The statement explained that samples analysed were taken from two travellers who arrived in Ghana from the UK, one from Norway, one from Hungary, one from India, and one traveller who arrived from the United States through the United Arab Emirates.

Nine samples were taken from individuals who had no travel history, who are believed to have acquired the infection locally.

How will it help the COVID-19 fight?

According to the Director of the NMIMR, Prof Abraham Anang, the successful establishment of this sequencing capability at University of Ghana would strengthen surveillance for tracking mutations of the virus and aid in the tracing of the sources of community infections in people with no known contact with confirmed cases.

The Director of WACCBIP, Prof Gordon Awandare, explained further that the data obtained from the samples indicate that Ghana is dealing with the same pathogen, and that it has not yet changed its genetic make-up significantly.

“The data tells us that, while there were some differences between the strains from the various countries, all the 15 genomes generally resembled (with >92% similarity) the reference strain that was isolated in the Wuhan Province of China, where the outbreak began,” the statement attributed to him.

“It is natural that pathogens will evolve as they encounter different environmental challenges, so we will need to continue monitoring to keep track with these changes and determine how they impact on the efficacy of potential drugs or vaccines that are being developed,” he added.

The statement added that the information from the sequence data has been shared with scientists around the world through an open access platform known as the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) database, where other sequences from various countries are stored (https://www.gisaid.org/).

“The University of Ghana is proud to note that this feat was achieved entirely by local scientists using established local capacity including our Next Generation Sequencing Core and ‘Zuputo‘, our High Performance Computing system, which are jointly managed by NMIMR and WACCBIP, with support from University of Ghana Computing Systems,” Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof Ebenezer Oduro Owusu said.

 

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