Workshop on Genome Sequencing of TB Pathogen held at JKUAT

Director, PAUSTI, Prof. Gabriel Magoma addresses the participants.

A joint hands-on skills training workshop targeting the Ministry of Health, National Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory (NTRL) staff and JKUAT/PAUSTI postgraduate students in genome sequencing as a tool for diagnosis and clinical management of TB resistance in Kenya is underway at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

The four-day course aims to familiarize the participants with next-generation sequencing and its applications, as well as provide them with critical knowledge of genomics as a tool for surveillance and research.

Genome sequencing, a laboratory method for determining the whole genetic makeup of a specific organism or cell type, has proven to be groundbreaking in assisting scientists in tracking the transmission of pathogens, how it is changing, and how those changes affect public health.

This is accomplished by evaluating an individual’s genomic profile in conjunction with understanding their environment, which is crucial in assisting scientists in predicting the chance of diseases happening as well as identifying individuals who may be predisposed to particular risk factors.

According to Dr. Steven Ger Nyanjom of the Department of Biochemistry in the College of Health Sciences (COHES), the training was informed by the need to generate genomic data at institutional level, which will be useful in addressing health issues, particularly at the community level.

He further stated that the training workshop strives to produce skilled human resources in this ever-evolving field.

A section of the Postgraduate students undertake lab work during the training

“This training will mainly focus on lab work and aims to help participants acquire skills to handle sequencing lab equipment and analyze genomic data. We believe the abilities they will receive in this workshop will be critical in addressing, and especially in early diagnosis, boosting the odds of successful patient treatment,” Dr. Ger Nyanjom noted.

Dr. Eddy Odari, from the Department of Medical Microbiology, also from COHES noted that the training was informed by the increasing prevalence of TB drug-resistant strains which has been evident in the country over the years.

“Through this training, the participants will understand and appreciate the role of TB genome sequencing as a tool to discover areas of mutation against several existing tuberculosis medications currently in use. We believe that such trainings will generate a pool of experts in genome sequencing both to the MOH and other sectors in the health and research fields,” Dr. Odari observed.

Speaking during the official opening ceremony of the training on Mon, May 22, 2023, Prof. Gabriel Magoma, Director of PAUSTI, lauded the initiative, adding that it will change how the health sector will deal with diseases like tuberculosis.

“PAUSTI is host to students from 41 member states which is why this training will be instrumental in changing Africa’s response in dealing with diseases through this new approach,” Prof. Magoma said.

He further added PAUSTI is well-equipped with cutting-edge technology and is eager to help Kenya and Africa improve the skills of their professionals.

The participants of the training take part in an exercise during one of the lab sessions.

Principal, COHES, Dr. Reuben Thuo stated that there is a need for intervention through the creation of a genomic database from the lowest to the highest level to ensure diseases are recognized early enough and therapy is delivered at the appropriate moment.

He stated that the training will also allow for disease surveillance, notably T.B, which was a major issue during the COVID 19 era.

Phostine Kirasi a Molecular Biology Masters student at PAUSTI was ecstatic to attend the course and stated that she plans to employ genome sequencing in her final year research project.

“Genome sequencing is proven to be a game changer in the health industry, and as students, educating ourselves with the necessary abilities in this field will allow us to make meaningful contributions,” Kirasi said.

Dr. Eddy Odari and Dr. Celestine Makobe (Dept. of Medical Microbiology), Dr. Steven Ger Nyanjom, Dr. Florence Ng’ong’a and Dr. Josephine Kimani (Dept. of Biochemistry) all from JKUAT, Dr. Eunice Machuka (International Livestock Research Institute), and Ms. Nellie Mukiri, Ms. Beatrice Kinaiya, and Dr. Irungu Karuga (NTRL-MoH) are among those involved in the training.

The workshop has been jointly organized by Jomo Kenyatta University, Agriculture and Technology, (JKUAT) – COHES, Pan African University Institute for Basic Sciences, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI), Africa International Biotechnology and Biomedical Conference (AIBBC) and National TB Reference Lab (NTRL) through a grant from the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND).   It was also supported by Illumina Biotechnology company (East and Central Africa) and F&S Scientific Kenya.

Workshop on Genome Sequencing of TB Pathogen held at JKUAT

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