Making Pathogen Sequencing Accessible for Meningitis Response in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Peter van Heusden of the University of the Western Cape in South Africa together with Placide Mbala of the Institut National de Récherche Biomedicale in the DRC will establish in-house pathogen sequencing capabilities at a research institute in the DRC to enable rapid responses to meningitis outbreaks and improve patient outcomes. Despite the success of vaccines, meningitis outbreaks caused by diverse bacterial species still cause substantial fatalities across Africa. Diagnosis of the latest outbreak in the DRC was delayed for several months because samples had to be transported out of the country for genomic sequencing. They will leverage a field-portable sequencer with bioinformatics processor to build a platform with a user-friendly interface for use in a low-infrastructure setting. They will also train local scientists to extract DNA from patient samples, run the sequencer, and interpret the results so that they can provide rapid surveillance of meningitis-causing pathogens directly in the DRC.