Tuesday, 18 January 2022 – The World Health Organization has delivered 6 sets of advanced genomic sequencing equipment with next-generation sequencing technology procured through financial support from the Federal Republic of Germany to 3 diagnostic and reference centres in Islamic Republic of Iran, namely the National Influenza Reference Laboratory, the Pasteur Institute of Tehran, and the Virology Research Center of Masih Daneshvari Hospital in Tehran.
The devices were officially handed over by WHO Representative and Head of Mission Dr Syed Jaffar Hussain on 12 and 13 January to the directors of the centres in an effort of solidarity to help strengthen the screening capacity of genetic variants causing COVID-19 in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The delivered items also include 3 high-tech laptops for analysis of the data generated by the sequencing devices.
“These institutes play a very critical role not only in the Islamic Republic of Iran but also in the Region and globally, because the evidence generated is looked into by the scientific community and public health community as they advise accordingly on how the virus is behaving and the cross-border movement of people, and it is our privilege to be part of their efforts. We will continue to work with them so they can support the people of Islamic Republic of Iran even better,” said Dr Hussain during a visit to the centres.
Advanced genomic sequencing machines equipped with next-generation sequencing technology are used to identify different variants and strains of different microbes, including the SARS-COV-2 virus causing COVID-19, and offer ultra-high throughput, scalability, and speed. That importance is further intensified as Iranian health authorities plan ahead for a potential peak caused by Omicron across the country.
“Health is not only limited to certain parts of the world, and every country needs equipment to ensure public health, particularly when it comes to viral respiratory infections, and one of the most important laboratory items diagnosis of viruses is molecular epidemiology, so in addition to diagnosing the virus, we also need the sequencing of the virus to learn more about its origin, transmissibility, and other features,” said Dr Talat Mokhtari, Director of the National Influenza Reference Laboratory. “So, we are happy to receive this device to help not only our country, but the world as we share information in our global network,” she added.
The National Influenza Reference Laboratory, also known as the National Influenza Centre, serves as the key point of contact between WHO and the country on all matters relating to epidemiological and virological aspects of influenza and SARS-COV-2.
The donation, procured through the German Federal Foreign Office honours a request from the Ministry of Health and Medical Education to help boost the existing testing and screening capacities, particularly the fast-circulating variant of concern Omicron.
“This donation is a critical support to our centre at this particular time in history, and with this equipment we hope to offer better diagnostic services to our country and the Region,” said Mr Mostafa Salehi Vaziri, Supervisor at the Reference Laboratory of Pasteur Institute of Tehran, during the handover ceremony.
The Pasteur Institute of Tehran leads the national COVID-19 laboratory network and is a centre for advanced research and innovative programmes in basic and applied medical sciences and production of biopharmaceuticals, including the recently developed PastoCovac recombinant COVID-19 vaccine.
“These machines make us feel empowered to monitor the genetic variations of SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” said Dr Alireza Naji, Medical virologist at Masih Daneshvari Hospital and Director of its virology laboratory.
Masih Daneshvari Hospital is the country’s clinical reference centre for all pulmonary and respiratory diseases, including COVID-19, since the beginning of the pandemic.
Genetic monitoring of the virus is vital to provide precious data for public health planning during the COVID-19 pandemic, including tracking of epidemiologic changes of the virus in the context of virus transmissibility, and more importantly, the vaccine efficacy predictions, Dr Naji explained.