CSP30/12 - Strategy on Regional Genomic Surveillance for Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness and Response

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Genomic surveillance leverages advances in molecular biology to discover pathogens, track their evolution, categorize their differentiation into new lineages and variants, and identify transmission chains and infectious sources (1, 2). In recent years, new genomic sequencing and bioinformatics technologies have emerged, allowing broader and timelier application in rapid response to outbreaks and epidemics. In these events, genomic surveillance data, together with clinical and epidemiologic information, have been used in continuous risk assessment of the public health situation, ongoing decision-making on public health and social measures, development of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostic tests, and evaluation of their effectiveness.

A hallmark of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the repeated emergence of viral lineages associated with significant public health impact and designated as “variants of interest” or “variants of concern.” While Member States and the Pan American Sanitary Bureau (PASB) initiated genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) as early as March 2020, such efforts have been greatly expanded and strengthened following the appearance of variants of concern since late 2020.

Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, the Region of the Americas remains at great risk for the emergence and reemergence of epidemic- and pandemic-prone pathogens, either from importation or as zoonotic spillover from autochthonous sources. The present strategy proposes lines of action covering the six-year period between 2022 and 2028 for the Member States and PASB to consolidate the advances in genomic surveillance achieved to date and to extend them within the general framework for preparedness and response to other potentially emerging and existing pathogens, including those at the human-animalenvironment interface, with epidemic and pandemic potential.