Genomics Seminar in Institute of Medicine, Kathmandu

On 10th May 2022, a seminar on application of genomics to understanding infectious diseases was organized at the Institute of Medicine, Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Maharajgunj, Kathmandu. The seminar was attended by 55 participants including the students from public health faculty and relevant BNMT Nepal team. In the seminar, professors, Dr Stephen Baker from University of Cambridge and Dr Sarah Dunstan from University of Melbourne presented about the subject focusing on genetics, human genetic variation and genetic methods, Genome Wide Association Studies, Antimicrobial resistance, how do antimicrobials work, impact of AMR in Shigellabacteria etc. This was followed by lively Q&A session and discussions with the audiences.

Mid Term review of Epidemic Intelligence project

On 16th December 2021, Mid-term review of the Epidemic Intelligence project was held in Kathmandu.

Epidemic Intelligence is a consortium project to collect and sequence SARS CoV-2 samples to improve our understanding of the emergence and ongoing transmission of the virus in Nepal. The project has recruited over 1,000 participants since July 2021 and over five hundred patient samples have been successfully sequenced by 16 November 2021. All samples sequenced to date are Delta variant and sub-lineages, with no community transmission of Omicron identified in Nepal by 16 November 2021. However, continued surveillance to monitor for emerging variants is essential. The cohort is being followed up at 3 and 6 months for clinical and mental health outcomes, LONG COVID symptoms and the association of variants with vaccine types.

The objective of the mid-term review was to share the project progress and the preliminary findings with the Nepalese government and non-government stakeholders and the project collaborators. The program was conducted with the enthusiastic presence of the distinguished guests i.e. Bhawani Prasad Khapung, Honorable State Minister, Dr Dipendra Raman Singh, Director General, Department of Health Services, Dr Taranath Pokharel, Policy, Planning and Monitoring Chief, Ministry of Health and Population, Dr Pradip Gyanwali, Executive Chief, Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC), Dr Allison Gocotano, WHO along with representatives from the consortium partners, Center for Molecular Dynamics (CMDN), NHRC, Oxford University Clinical Research Unit-Nepal, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, the medical superintendents from three project hospitals and BNMT team. In the program, the presentations focused on the brief introduction of the project followed by work being done by the partner organizations, and preliminary findings of the SARS-COV-2 gene sequencing. This was followed by open Q and A session on research methodology, omicron variants and community transmissions, challenges and learnings and future scale up of the surveillance.

There was an encouraging reception and trust towards the project by the key stakeholders. The government officials highly appreciated the project as an important step to respond to emerging pandemic threats and also regarded it as a good quality research with the greater possibility of impacting in national health policies in future. They thanked all participants and their families, collaborating hospital and field staff for extraordinary efforts and support. They extended best wishes for the successful completion of the project, committing to extend support as and when required.

Research Ethics Training, Banke

A one-day Research Ethics and Informed consent training was organized by BNMT Nepal in Nepalgunj, Banke. The main objective of the training was to improve the skills and knowledge of BNMT team members regarding the ethical principles governing research in human participants and the procedures and principles to be followed during the informed consent process for research studies. The training was facilitated by Principle Investigator of the project, Dr. Maxine Caws, Acting Executive Director Raghu Dhital, Research Manager Kritika Dixit, Research Officer Swastika Shrestha, Research Associate Rajan Paudel and Consultant Anne Goldie. The Epidemic Intelligence Project Manager, Target TB Project Manager, Regional Manager Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, research staff, District Program Coordinators and Community Health Supervisors participated in the training.

Training focused on the ethical principles to be considered in the development and conduct of research involving human participants with an emphasis on the three core principles – respect for persons, beneficence and justice.

The training comprised of presentations, experience sharing, brainstorming, group work and role play to engage the participants in active discussion and learning. The training also emphasized the importance of a complete and appropriate Informed Consent process when inviting participants to take part in research studies. Participants reviewed and discussed existing consent forms and participant information sheets to highlight any issues that may arise.  

The training was conducted with appropriate precautionary measures to protect against COVID transmission.

Planning and Sharing Meeting with Stakeholders, Banke

On 4th August 2021, District level Planning and Sharing Meeting for the Epidemic Intelligence project was organized in Nepalgunj, Banke district. The objectives of the meeting were

  • to share and plan the Standard Operating Procedures/study protocol with concerned district level stakeholders
  • to develop common understanding on detail implementation plan

The meeting was conducted with the active presence of distinguished government guests, Dr. Prakash Thapa, Medical Superintendent, Bheri Hospital; Ms. Kalpana Ghimire, Lab Technician, Provincial Public Health Laboratory and Mr. Dhir Jung Shah, Chief of Health Office, Banke; along with Dr. Maxine Caws, Principle Investigator, BNMT Nepal, Mr. Raghu Dhital, Acting Executive Director, BNMT Nepal as well as the project managers, district program coordinators and community health supervisors of BNMT Nepal.

Amid the COVID19 restrictions and risks, utmost precautionary measures were strictly followed in the meeting.

The meeting was successful in communicating and engaging all the distinguished government officials on detailed implementation plan and study protocols. The meeting also discussed about the forms and formats to be used in the project. We thank all the participants for their time, expertise, enthusiastic contributions and valuable ideas contributed during this meeting. We look forward to working together for the successful delivery of the Epidemic Intelligence project.