UNIVERSITY OF GHANA SCIENTISTS SEQUENCE GENOMES OF
NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
Scientists at the University of Ghana have successfully sequenced genomes of
SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the global COVID-19 pandemic,
obtaining important information about the genetic composition of viral strains
in 15 of the confirmed cases in Ghana.
The scientists, who work 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) at the University, analyzed samples from selected cases to gain a
comprehensive understanding of the variations of the virus that are present in
the country.
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 successful establishment of this sequencing capability at University of
Ghana is a significant milestone in Ghana‘s response to the pandemic, as it will
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,‖ said Prof. Abraham Anang, Director of NMIMR.
Samples analyzed were taken from two travelers who arrived in Ghana from the
UK, one from Norway, one from Hungary, one from India, and one traveler 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.
―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,‖ said Prof. Gordon Awandare, Director of
WACCBIP. ―This confirms that we are dealing with the same pathogen, and
that it has not yet changed its genetic make-up significantly. 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 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,‖ said Prof. Ebenezer Oduro
Owusu, Vice Chancellor of the University.
―We would like to express our gratitude to the Government of Ghana, and all
the funding agencies that have provided grants to support the operations of our
two flagship centres of excellence for biomedical research,‖ the Vice-Chancellor
added.
—END—
Contact: Professor Abraham K. Anang- Aanang@noguchi.ug.edu.gh

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