Maíra Menezes (IOC/Fiocruz)
The Laboratory for Respiratory Viruses and Measles of the Oswaldo Cruz Institute (IOC/Fiocruz) has been nominated Reference Laboratory of the World Health Organization (WHO) for Covid-19 in the Americas. After the formalization of the agreement between the WHO and Fiocruz, the unit will now begin making confirmatory tests for the disease in the region, and will also join the WHO network of laboratory specialists for Covid-19.
National reference in respiratory viruses for the Ministry of Health, the Laboratory has been working hard since the emergence of the novel coronavirus (SARS-COV-2) to diagnose samples and to train teams for laboratory tests, including the training of professionals working in public laboratories in Brazil and in other countries in Latin America.
The formal acknowledgement of the Lab as a Reference Laboratory in the Americas took place upon invitation by the WHO. In addition to the IOC, the Laboratory for the Diagnosis of Respiratory Viruses of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in the USA, is also a reference in the continent.
“Being selected as one of the two reference laboratories in the Americas is the acknowledgement of more than just our laboratory, but of Fiocruz as a whole, for the work it has been doing for decades dealing with respiratory viruses, strengthening and consolidating our Brazilian Public Health System and helping promote health and quality of life for the Brazilian population. It is also the acknowledgement of the Ministry of Health for all its efforts, through the Health Surveillance Secretary and the General Coordination of Public Health Laboratories, to improve surveillance and knowledge on respiratory viruses in our country”, states the head of the Laboratory of Respiratory Viruses and Measles, Marilda Siqueira.
“All this means that data generated in Brazil have the strength and representativity to influence global analysis on the situation of the influenza virus and, currently, of the novel coronavirus as well”, the researcher adds.
Since the 1950’s, the IOC Laboratory has been a national reference on influenza for the WHO, as part of the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System, created after the 1957 Asian flu pandemic. The analysis of the viruses that circulate in the country helps determine the composition of the annual vaccine and also helps with the WHO’s risk assessment.
In the last few years, the Laboratory has also been a national reference for SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome), and ebola.
As a Reference Laboratory for Covid-19 in the Americas, the unit will be supporting labs in the region, especially those of countries with medium and low income, working on the genetic sequencing of samples for global reference, following the evolution of the virus and identifying mutations that can be relevant for diagnostic tests and for the development of vaccines and treatments, and developing and implementing cutting-edge essay methods.