TACOMA, Washington — The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has launched many programs that are helping to overcome pressing challenges in the developing world. One of these is IDseq, an open-source platform that enables researchers to identify and analyze disease-causing pathogens. IDseq is saving lives and revolutionizing the way impoverished countries respond to infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
Pediatrician Priscilla Chan and her husband, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, created the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) in 2015. It is a limited liability company that invests in various nonprofits and organizations in order to promote global equality in science, education and justice. The CZI created the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub by funding a collaborative medical science research center for UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and Stanford. The Biohub provides a laboratory space for scientists from these institutions to research new developments in the biological field. In 2018, the CZI and Biohub created IDseq.
IDseq is able to analyze terabytes of data from a laboratory sample and share the information with other scientists around the world. It combines sequencing hardware with powerful cloud-based software to quickly and efficiently interpret huge amounts of pathogen data. Researchers use the data and analysis IDseq provides to understand the spread of disease and develop treatments.
“The ultimate goal of IDseq is to create a global dashboard for real-time global pathogen detection,” said Patricia Flores, a communications associate with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Because it is a “free, cloud-based, global public health tool, IDseq is an invaluable tool for scientists in the developing world who may not have access to these types of tools,” said Flores. Through the rapid sharing of information that it facilitates, IDseq is saving lives in the developing world.
The Developing World
Because scientists in all parts of the world are using IDseq, it provides a real-time view of the spread of infectious diseases across the globe. This allows researchers to gain new insights into the way diseases are able to spread. It is vital to be able to quickly share information about infectious diseases, as they can enter a new country or region at any time. Less developed countries are particularly vulnerable because they lack a platform to learn about the infectious diseases affecting other countries. With IDseq, a scientist in a developing country can now learn about diseases spreading in every part of the world and begin accumulating resources and taking precautions before these diseases reach their country.
Researchers can also use IDseq to learn how various pathogens and diseases may be connected. This can make a large difference in how certain diseases are treated and is a key way IDseq is saving lives. In Bangladesh, a developing country, many children were suffering from spinal meningitis. Doctors there were unable to determine the cause of the large number of cases until they began using IDseq. They used IDseq to sequence the pathogens present in samples of spinal fluid from children who were suffering from meningitis. This revealed that the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus was present in many of the samples and doctors were able to begin treating meningitis patients for the chikungunya virus. Researchers in Bangladesh did not have the resources needed to pay for this type of genetic sequencing but were able to do it for free using IDseq.
The Fight Against COVID-19
IDseq is saving lives during the spread of COVID-19. If the virus is a threat in any particular country, it is a threat to the entire planet. Scientists who are studying the disease, use IDseq to gain practical knowledge about the genome of COVID-19. This includes how it spreads and how to identify cases. The global scientific community can instantly share information around the world through IDseq, which makes it easier to know where outbreaks are occurring. This allows the international community to efficiently provide resources to the countries that need them. In addition, scientists are able to make well-informed policy recommendations about the proper response to the pandemic.
How IDseq Helped Cambodia
These benefits can make a large difference for poor countries, which are impacted the worst by COVID-19. The pandemic can be especially destructive to developing economies. Additionally, poor countries do not have the healthcare resources to provide for everyone. Cambodia is an extremely impoverished country, struggling to properly respond to the pandemic due to a lack of resources. However, once scientists there began using IDseq, they were able to quickly detect new cases of COVID-19. They used the data IDseq provided to assemble an entire genome of the strain that is present in Cambodia. IDseq is saving lives in Cambodia because it has greatly facilitated testing there. In addition, other scientists are using this information to study the way the virus spreads.
The Future of IDseq
The developing world is especially vulnerable to infectious diseases. Impoverished countries lack the infrastructure to learn about diseases spreading in other countries. People in developing countries are unable to properly use their limited resources to prepare for diseases that could reach their countries. IDseq is helping to solve this problem. With the power of the internet, scientists across the globe can instantaneously share information. They can also use IDseq’s powerful data analysis to learn about and develop treatments for the diseases affecting their countries. “IDseq is designed to empower real-time, data-driven decision-making for the global health community for now and years to come.”
– Gabriel Guerin