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A view of the participants in the molecular biology laboratory

From April 29 to May 06, 2024, the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d'Ivoire (CSRS) hosted a training course in next-generation metagenomic sequencing. Some ten researchers from Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea and Mali took part. They represented the CSRS, the Institut Pasteur de Côte d'Ivoire (IPCI), the Institut National de Santé Publique (INSP) in Guinea and the Centre pour le Développement des Vaccins (CDV) in Mali. For one week, these researchers were trained in metagenomic sequencing and bioinformatics analysis.

Sequencing is the process of decoding the genetic information contained in DNA. There are several sequencing techniques. One of the most recent is next-generation sequencing (NGS). In an article published in 2023 in the journal Frontiers in microbiology, Dr. Kanny Diallo, Associate Researcher at the Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques en Côte d'Ivoire (CSRS), states that NGS “enables an in-depth study of the genomes of microbial communities.” NGS opens up a vast field of possibilities or applications for diagnosing diseases. This is achieved through several features, notably next-generation sequencing, which involves the massive, parallel sequencing of millions of DNA fragments, providing vast quantities of data. Despite the benefits that NGS offers to public health, access to it remains limited in middle- and low-income countries. In many respects, capacity building is essential. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has rightly partnered with the Chan Zuckerberg bio hub and the Chan Zuckerberg initiative to support initiatives aimed at providing specialized training in metagenomic sequencing.

At CSRS, the “Real Etiology of Meningitis in West Africa” project is funded as part of the Metagenomic Grand Challenges Initiative, a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Bio Hub and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

The aim of the project is to apply an unbiased metagenomic approach to simultaneously screen for multiple pathogens known to cause meningitis (bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites) and identify new agents not yet discovered. "To achieve this, particular attention is being paid to sequencing. However, this requires capacity-building to enable researchers in the countries where we operate - Mali, Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire - to take advantage of the latest cutting-edge sequencing technologies,” asserts Dr. Kanny Diallo.

Habiboulaye Dembélé, a participant from Mali, makes no secret of his satisfaction at having taken part in this training course. "We learned a lot during the week. It gives us more skills to improve the quality of our work in our different institutions."

Emmanuel Dabo/AOA