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The efforts of our Pathogen Genomics team throughout the COVID-19 pandemic saved thousands of lives and prevented further outbreaks.
As the first cases of COVID-19 began to emerge in NSW the NSW Health Pathology pathogen genomics service joined forces with a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists and researchers to help create a new assay that would illuminate the spread of the virus.
The team employed an innovative laboratory method that was originally used to identify the source of foodborne outbreaks in NSW. They were quickly able to provide early pathogen sequences directly from infected patients then grow the virus in order to map the entire genome.
Incredibly, it took only two weeks for the first genomes to be developed which allowed health experts to link people arriving from overseas to international hotspots. The team used more than 840 samples from COVID positive patients that allowed them to uncover 49 genomic clusters responsible for 91% of early cases.
“I think, at its core, this project was about collaboration. It was about taking a really innovative laboratory method and then pulling together different pieces of health data to think about new ways that we could control a kind of world-changing event as it happened,” said Dr Rebecca Rockett, who was part of the award-winning team.
The important work performed by the pathogen genomics team was shared across state lines as well as internationally in order to battle the rapid spread of the virus as it ignored all borders.
The unprecedented work earned the pathogen genomics team and their partners the NSW Health Secretary’s Award for Integrated Value Based Care earlier this year.