UFSC and partner institutions launch Pan American Network for Environmental Epidemiology on Monday, 29
The Laboratory of Applied Virology of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology of the School of Biological Sciences (MIP/CCB) at the Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC), together with other governmental and academic institutions from 14 Latin American countries, launched on Monday, 29 November, the Pan American Network for Environmental Epidemiology (Panacea). The Panacea network is capable of obtaining real-time data to detect microbiological and chemical risks in the region. In addition, it seeks to develop and implement new molecular tools for application in environmental epidemiology, as well as to train professionals capable of producing, analyzing, and interpreting data.
The initiative has collaboration with the University of Newcastle, the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, the Karolinska Institute, and MGI Tech. Panacea is also supported by the Northumbrian Water Group and the Suez Group, and aims to expand the current analytical capabilities of Latin American and Caribbean countries to implement Wastewater-Based Epidemiology (WBE) programs.
The network co-creation project, led by the University of Newcastle, has begun sequencing historical and contemporary samples across Latin America to determine the variants of SARS-CoV-2 circulating in the region. The research assesses the real-time prevalence and genomic variants of the virus in major cities across the continent. The team is also preparing to expand the network’s work in monitoring antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and other infectious agents.
Research on Environmental Epidemiology in Brazil
Through this project, the Laboratory of Applied Virology at UFSC becomes one of the focal points of the network in Brazil, together with the Environmental Company of the State of São Paulo (Cetesb). “LVA has been working with environmental surveillance in sewage in Santa Catarina since 1993, as an alert system for epidemiological surveillance of environmental viruses and fecal-oral excretion,” says the coordinator of the Virology Laboratory, Professor Gislaine Fongaro. LVA’s environmental surveillance work was also applied during the pandemic, together with the UFSC Task Force against Covid-19, consisting of the Applied Virology Laboratories, Protozoology Laboratory, Bioinformatics Laboratory and the Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Microbiology and Serology (LBMMS).
“In early May 2020, the Laboratory of Applied Virology expanded its studies by also focusing on SARS-CoV-2 in sewage in Florianopolis, as well as evaluating retrospective sewage from the capital of Santa Catarina. Soon after, it followed up during the 2020-2021 summer season the viral circulation in Florianópolis-SC, inviting LACEN (Environment) for collaboration. Then, in August 2021, we started to seek support from city halls, knocking on doors, as well as from municipal health supervisors, consortiums and concessionaires that manage sanitation for the purpose of expanding the project to several cities in Santa Catarina and not only to the capital”, says Gislaine. This broad study includes Campos Novos, Capinzal, Chapecó, Concórdia, Curitibanos, Florianópolis, Herval d’ Oeste, Itajaí, Joaçaba, Joinville, São Miguel do Oeste, and Videira, and is part of an Outreach action, part of the Integrative Environmental Epidemiological Surveillance (VigEAI) project.
“The Panacea network provides the integration of studies and strengthening of epidemiology based on sewage monitoring, as a sentinel tool in Latin America, and our studies may help in this reinforcement,” concludes virologist, professor and researcher at UFSC, Gislaine Fongaro.
Translated by SINTER/UFSC
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