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.