Skip to main content

Military Health System

DOD Establishes Collaborative Virus Genetic Sequencing Capability for COVID-19

Image of two scientists in masks looking at a computer monitor. Research associate Lindsay Glang and senior bioinformatics analyst Gregory Rice sequencing SARS-CoV-2 genomes on Oxford Nanopore MinION platform at NMRC BDRD. (Photo Courtesy of Naval Medical Research Center, Genomics & Bioinformatics Department.)

Recommended Content:

Armed Forces Health Surveillance Division | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Global Emerging Infections Surveillance

As the pandemic continues to unfold, genetic sequence data for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), has played a critical role in the public health response, including in the design of diagnostics and vaccines. Within the Department of Defense, SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequence data plays a vital role in force health protection efforts.

To jumpstart the DOD's SARS-CoV-2 sequencing efforts, Armed Forces Health Surveillance Branch's Global Emerging Infections Surveillance (GEIS) section used its existing partnerships with Army, Navy, and Air Force public health and medical research laboratories. This connection helped to establish a collaborative approach to the sequencing capabilities. Sequence data from this collaboration will provide critical information about transmission patterns, track diagnostic effectiveness, and guide the development and evaluation of medical countermeasures for the 1.4 million active duty and 331,000 reserve personnel.

"GEIS-funded surveillance provides near-real time understanding of how the SARS-CoV-2 virus is evolving. This information is critical for the development of a vaccine and treatment," stated Navy Capt. Guillermo Pimentel, GEIS chief. "Previous investments by GEIS in this technology have given our partners the capability to respond and sequence SARS-CoV-2 genomes isolated from DOD Service members around the world."

In 2017, GEIS established a Next Generation Sequencing and Bioinformatics Consortium to work with GEIS partner DOD laboratories to coordinate and improve pathogen sequencing and analysis efforts around the world. Consortium partners can rapidly detect and characterize known, emerging, and novel infectious disease agents using data from pathogen sequencing. This helps to inform force health protection decision making. The core Consortium partners include: the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC), U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, and the Naval Health Research Center.

"We have used virus sequence data in numerous studies to track virus transmission [such as dengue and influenza]," said Irina Maljkovic Berry, chief of Viral Genetics and Emerging Diseases for the WRAIR Viral Diseases Branch in Silver Spring, Maryland. "We estimate outbreak origins to detect and track vaccine escape and other important mutations throughout the world to aid in vaccine design."

Consortium partners played a key role in analyzing previous viral outbreaks, such as Ebola in West Africa and Zika in South America, and in seasonal influenza vaccine selection. "Each year we generate thousands of influenza genomes that we use to determine how influenza is evolving or evading our vaccines which directly impact our forces," said Clarise Starr, deputy chief of Pathogen Detection and Therapeutics Portfolio Applied Technology and Genomics Division, U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine. "These efforts will be the same essential practices that we'll need to deploy in response to SARS-CoV-2."

This open partnership and investment proved extremely helpful in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. DOD laboratories quickly established the ability to isolate the virus, share samples, and compare laboratory methods to improve their sequencing capabilities. "We have been evaluating a few different laboratory sequencing protocols to determine which one works best for samples with certain attributes, in order help increase the efficiency of SARS-CoV-2 sequencing from swabs," according to Kimberly Bishop-Lilly, head of Genomics & Bioinformatics Department at NMRC in Fort Detrick, Maryland.

The sequence data that's being collected is a valuable source of information to better understand virus transmission patterns among DOD personnel, particularly when combined with other clinical and epidemiological data. These data are also compared to global virus sequence data.

"The goal is to have data and information that could help answer how local outbreaks may have started, how SARS-CoV-2 may have spread in a community or geographic area, and how we can better contain spread or improve interventions," said Lindsay Morton, GEIS's senior molecular epidemiologist. Thus far, SARS-CoV-2 sequence data has been gathered from infected personnel at more than 25 locations across the globe.

Additionally, GEIS partners are leveraging this technology to improve understanding of global circulation of SARS-CoV-2 through surveillance programs at DOD overseas labs, such as in Thailand, Peru, Kenya, and Cambodia.

"The OCONUS (Outside Continental United States) labs are starting to stand up SARS-CoV-2 sequencing capabilities and the core labs of the Consortium are providing them reach-back support for sequencing protocols and for bioinformatics analyses," said Bishop-Lilly. "Consensus viral genomes are being produced at some of the OCONUS labs and we are comparing to viral genomes obtained from samples in other regions such as the U.S., to identify what lineage is predominant in a given geographic region and what key genetic variations may be predominant in a certain area."

These data will provide a better understanding of transmission in these locations and result in a better understanding of risk to U.S. forces deployed around the world as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. GEIS leaders hope that increased collaboration across the agencies will propel the research and production of an effective vaccine.

"The key to fully utilizing SARS-CoV-2 sequence data is collaboration," said Morton, "Consortium partners are ready and willing to engage with organizations involved with clinical studies and outbreak investigations across the DOD to better guide the Department's response to COVID-19 and reduce the impact to readiness and operations around the world."

You also may be interested in...

COVID-19 Health Action Response for Marines continues to study long-term effects of COVID-19 on Marines

Article Around MHS
2/10/2022
Medical military personnel talking to a patient

A team composed of U.S. Navy medical personnel and civilian technicians based out of the Naval Medical Research Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, assembled during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 to study the short and long-term effects that the virus has on Marines. 

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Does CSM Gragg Have COVID-19?

Video
2/9/2022
Does CSM Gragg Have COVID-19?

CSM Gragg demonstrates how to use a COVID-19 at home rapid test.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | At-Home COVID-19 Tests | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Getting up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccine

Article Around MHS
2/8/2022
Military personnel giving the COVID-19 vaccine

The U.S. Guard Coast is that we have vaccines to help prevent serious illness if you contract COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

DOD COVID-19 Practice Management Guide Version 8

Technical Document
1/31/2022

This Practice Management Guide does not supersede DOD Policy. It is based upon the best information available at the time of publication. It is designed to provide information and assist decision making. It is not intended to define a standard of care and should not be construed as one. Neither should it be interpreted as prescribing an exclusive course of management. It was developed by experts in this field. Variations in practice will inevitably and appropriately occur when clinicians take into account the needs of individual patients, available resources, and limitations unique to an institution or type of practice. Every healthcare professional making use of this guideline is responsible for evaluating the appropriateness of applying it in the setting of any particular clinical situation. The Practice Management Guide is not intended to represent TRICARE policy. Further, inclusion of recommendations for specific testing and/or therapeutic interventions within this guide does not guarantee coverage of civilian sector care. Additional information on current TRICARE benefits may be found at www.tricare.mil or by contacting your regional TRICARE Managed Care Support Contractor.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors

Oregon National Guard surging to support hospitals again

Article Around MHS
1/27/2022
Oregon Army National Guard touring a hospital

Hundreds of Oregon National Guard members are increasing support of hospitals throughout the state in their second hospital relief mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Readiness Capabilities

Public Health nurses offer insights on living with COVID-19 now, looking into future

Article Around MHS
1/25/2022
The Challenges of Living with COVID

One of the more challenging jobs for any public health professional is dealing with unpredictability inherent in outbreaks like the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Do You Have COVID-19? Influenza? Or is it RSV? Here’s What to Look For

Article
1/24/2022
Military personnel preparing a COVID-19 test sample for processing

Knowing the symptoms of COVID-19/RSV/Flu will help your medical treatment

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health

Medical Leaders Address COVID-19 Concerns During Family Forum

Article
1/21/2022
Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jemuel Macabali, from San Diego, Calif., gives the COVID-19 vaccine to staff at Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti, Aug. 13, 2021.

Top health leaders talk about the recent spike in COVID-19 infections and the impact on the military community.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Navy Hospital Corpsman steps into the breach in the war on COVID-19

Article Around MHS
1/18/2022
Hospitalman Hector Conde standing in front of a immunization office's refrigeration

First responders and those fighting on the medical battleground have earned well-deserved recognition for their efforts.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Critically ill COVID Patient Delivers Baby While on Heart-Lung Bypass

Article
1/11/2022
Retired U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Hernandez and his wife, Ashley, take a family portrait with their six children. Ashley is BAMC’s first patient to give birth while on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.

Hernandez, a Marine Corps spouse and mother of five, is BAMC’s first patient to give birth while on Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.

Recommended Content:

Women's Health | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

This is my Why

Article Around MHS
12/30/2021
Air Force Senior Airman Marcus Bullock poses for a photo after receiving his COVID-19 vaccination

Air Force Senior Airman Marcus Bullock stated his reason for getting the vaccine was to help his mother and son be able to have a play date again.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

Development of WRAIR’s Pan-Coronavirus Vaccine Shows Promise

Article
12/28/2021
A vial of spike ferritin nanoparticle WRAIR's COVID-19 vaccine

Series of preclinical studies supports the Army’s pan-coronavirus vaccine development strategy

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine | Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Immunization Experts are Central to COVID-19 Vaccine Program

Article
12/20/2021
Medical director at Fort Riley, Kansas receives a COVID-19 vaccination In his left arm from a tech in personal protective equipment.

Immunization Health Division at forefront of COVID-19 vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

Military Health System Marks 1-Year Anniversary for COVID Vaccinations

Article
12/14/2021
FEmale Marine gets COVID 19 vaccination in left  arm at Camp LeJeune in December 2020

More than 6.4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered a year after first shots within MHS.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus and the COVID-19 Vaccine

So others may breathe - Navy Medicine Respiratory Therapist cares for COVID casualties

Article Around MHS
12/13/2021
Military Health personnel posing for a picture

Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Tessa Hazard, a respiratory therapist, recently deployed to Alabama as a member of a COVID-19 response team.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus & the MHS Response
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 31 - 45 Page 3 of 28
Refine your search
Last Updated: June 03, 2022
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery