WHO Launches Global Monitoring Network for Dangerous Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Global collaboration in decoding genetics of infectious diseases like HIV and COVID-19 is crucial in managing outbreaks, say health experts.

An international group of health experts have launched a global network designed to monitor for infectious disease threats by sharing genetic disease data from around the world, which can be used to develop new vaccines and treatments, reducing the risks associated with widespread outbreaks.

The Worldwide Health Organization (WHO) issued a press release on May 20, announcing the International Pathogen Surveillance Network (IPSN), which will use global health experts to  identify, monitor, and respond to disease threats through genetic research.

IPSN was formed after international efforts on COVID-19 genomic sequencing led to a breakthrough vaccine for the virus. Genetic sequencing analyzes the genetic codes of viruses, bacteria, and other infection causing organisms known as pathogens.

The global collaboration was crucial in developing the COVID-19 vaccine, which helped stop the pandemic’s spread. Before the vaccine’s development, nursing home residents were among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, and most U.S. nursing homes had multiple COVID-19 outbreaks.

Global Monitoring Critical in Preventing Future Pandemics

According to WHO, the IPSN will be made up of international health experts from governments, philanthropic organizations, civil services, academia, and private corporations. IPSN members will use a global online platform to collect and analyze disease DNA samples, share that research data, and collaborate on public health decisions.

The group will focus on genetic sequencing and data analytics which it hopes will help the world prepare for, and respond to, existing and emerging disease outbreak threats. The ISPN also hopes its research will lead to the development of infection treatments and vaccines.

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WHO stresses that global monitoring of infectious diseases is instrumental in managing many worldwide health threats. Pathogens including tuberculosis, HIV, influenza, and bacteria linked to food poisoning outbreaks are all under active international health surveillance.

IPSN’s launch event at the 2023 World Health Assembly in Geneva emphasized the importance of global, data driven infectious disease monitoring, especially since many developing countries lack robust infection surveillance systems from post-COVID 19 pandemic budget cuts.

“Global collaboration in pathogen genomic surveillance has been critical as the world fights COVID-19 together,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, during the launch event. “IPSN builds upon this experience by creating a strong platform for partners across sectors and borders to share knowledge, tools, and practices to ensure that pandemic prevention and response is innovative and robust in the future.”


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