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Researchers advocate expansion of arbovirus genomic monitoring


Solange Argenta (Fiocruz Pernambuco)


Arbovirologists and entomologists from 54 countries joined forces to highlight the urgent need to implement global genomic surveillance to high impact arboviruses such as dengue, Zika and chikungunya. The idea was based on leveraging the data sharing model and infrastructure implemented for monitoring the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the causative agent of the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter was signed by 74 researchers from across the globe and published in the recognized scientific journal Lancet Global Health this Tuesday (August 1st). The letter includes researchers from the Aggeu Magalhães Institute (Fiocruz Pernambuco), the Leônidas and Maria Deane Institute (Fiocruz Amazônia) and the Oswaldo Cruz Institute (IOC/Fiocruz).

The authors pointed out that worldwide distributed arboviruses that cause a high impact on several countries around the world should be first targeted due to their induced morbidity and mortality. “Epidemiological estimates underscore the impact of these viruses, with half of the world population at risk of dengue virus infection and around 100–400 million cases and 20000 deaths reported each year”, highlights the authors in the letter. The expansion of the main mosquito vectors – Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus – to new areas due to uncontrolled urbanization, globalization, human mobility and climatic change, is leading to new outbreaks in temperate and high altitude areas where outbreaks were not reported before.

The quality of arbovirus genomic data currently available and the slow sharing of data among scientists and public health practitioners are also aspects addressed in this letter. Although the rapid genomic data sharing was implemented during the Zika virus epidemics, the current reality of this virus and other high impact arboviruses is completely different. The expansion of these viruses around the globe is clear, but most of the genomic data generated by the academy is only made available after a long period of peer review needed for scientific manuscript publication.

With this letter, several researchers from across the globe highlighted that the scientific community must join forces and timely share genomic data to allow aggregated analysis of new outbreaks. One of the tools that allows it is already in place within the Global Data Science Initiative called GISAID, the EpiArbo database. “It is about a platform tailored for the rapid sharing of genomic data that follows the successful implementation of the EpiCov database for SARS-CoV-2. This new implementation promotes national and international collaboration to study these viruses that do not respect borders. Moreover, this platform also promotes the protection of data generators and authors regarding the data submitted, even before the formal publication of a scientific manuscript, encouraging the much needed timely data sharing.” explains the researcher from Fiocruz Pernambuco and main author of the letter, Gabriel Wallau, who helped to develop EpiArbo. “The idea is that researchers could submit data rapidly, in a similar way that was done with the SARS-CoV-2 data. That in turn will allow more complete and global analysis that can be used by decision makers to effectively mitigate the impact of these viruses on the world population”.

Among the signatories are Felipe Naveca, from Fiocruz Amazônia; Rafael Maciel de Freitas, from the Oswaldo Cruz Institute; and Constância Ayres, from Fiocruz Pernambuco.

To have access to the full version of the letter Arbovirus researchers unite: expanding genomic surveillance for an urgent global need visit The Lancet Global Health website.

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