Skip main navigation

Military Health System

Clear Your Browser Cache

This website has recently undergone changes. Users finding unexpected concerns may care to clear their browser's cache to ensure a seamless experience.

Genome Sequencing Work at U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine

Image of Military personnel posing by Wright-Patterson AFB sign. A group stands outside the 711th Human Performance Wing’s U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, or USAFSAM, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Aug. 15, 2022. The individuals represent the USAFSAM Public Health and Preventive Medicine Department including epidemiologists, laboratorians, and programmatic support that provided SARS-CoV-2 sequencing support to the Department of Defense in response to the coronavirus. (Credit: Dr. Anthony Fries)

Editor’s note: This is the seventh article in a 7-part series that highlights the work of technicians and scientists working in Military Health System laboratories who worked to identify COVID-19 variants using special sequencing technology.

The U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, part of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711 Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, oversees the Department of Defense’s Global Respiratory Pathogen Surveillance Program. This program has a unique reach across the Military Health System and secures biological samples for sequencing from an incredibly expansive geographic footprint across the globe.

“The approach of the program is to capture a representative set of samples from MHS patients who show up each week to their health care provider with respiratory illness, such as COVID-19 and influenza,” said Dr. Anthony Fries, principal lead for the program at USAFSAM.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was essential in fostering communication among the partner laboratories, securing funding, and championing the need for genomic surveillance in the DOD, which was exemplified by their shepherding of the DOD SARS-CoV-2 Whole Genome Sequencing Action Plan.

Military medical personnel  prepare specimens in laboratory From left: Laboratory technologists Carol Garrett, KelseyLanter, and Jennifer Meyer prepare specimens for sequencing analyses in the 711th Human Performance Wing’s U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace MedicinePublic Health Department at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, Aug. 15,2022. The 711th Human Performance Wing is part of the Air Force ResearchLaboratory, the primary scientific research and development center for theDepartment of the Air Force.

USAFSAM has sequenced over 15,000 SARS-CoV-2 samples, the majority within DOD partner labs, and consistently had less than 14-day turn-around times for sample processing. Their unique access to samples from MHS populations throughout the United States and around the world has greatly aided ongoing surveillance of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants for the DOD. USAFSAM data are shared weekly with international databases where they are immediately interpreted and MHS beneficiary data are placed in context with the SARS-CoV-2 genomic data coming out from every corner of the globe.

“USAFSAM produces numerous reports and visualizations to aid public health personnel in interpreting the constantly changing SARS-CoV-2 variant landscape. USAFSAM has an extensive history of genomic surveillance for other viruses like influenza. However, the sequencing response and raw amount of data produced for SARS-CoV-2 has been a tectonic shift for public health,” said Fries.

“The daily amount of sequences produced across the globe allows scientists to churn through these data in near-real time as the virus is evolving and new variants emerge,” said Fries.

You also may be interested in...

Article Around MHS
Oct 4, 2023

Stemming the Tide: Navy Medicine and the Egyptian Cholera Epidemic of 1947

Over three months, cholera spread across 2,270 towns and villages in Egypt killing over half of its victims. According to one estimate over 20,000 Egyptians died of cholera. (Graphic by Andre Sobocinski)

On September 21, 1947, a man was admitted to the Al-Qurayn (El Korein) Hospital in Egypt vomiting profusely and suffering severe diarrhea. Within hours, he was dead. The attending physician on duty first suspected food poisoning before 11 additional patients were admitted with identical symptoms. Their diagnosis was cholera, a deadly bacterial disease ...

Article Around MHS
Aug 24, 2023

Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Performs First Robotic Bronchoscopy Within the Defense Health Agency

Walter Reed’s Interventional Pulmonology team gears up for first Robotic Bronchoscopy within the Defense Health Agency. Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Robert F. Browning (1st row 4th from left) and U.S. Navy Capt. Sean McKay (1st row 5th from left). (Photo: James Black)

Walter Reed performed the first robotic bronchoscopy procedure in the Defense Health Agency. Using the robotic bronchoscope to augment our current cutting edge cone beam CT Bronchoscopy program, Walter Reed now offers state of the art services in precision lung biopsy and early lung cancer diagnosis previously unavailable within the DHA.

Article Around MHS
Aug 23, 2023

Researchers Say 'Warfighters Must Train like They Fight,' Emphasizing Mental Resilience During MHSRS

Susannah Knust, a research psychologist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, speaks during a 2023 Military Health System Research Symposium session on Warfighter Operational Resilience on August 17, 2023. (Photo credit: Danae Johnson, USAMRDC Public Affairs)

Nearly all military physical and field training exercises can enhance mental toughness and physical endurance, which researchers at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command believe can prepare Warfighters for the future, they explained during a session on the final day of the 2023 Military Health System Research Symposium on August 17, ...

Skip subpage navigation
Refine your search
Last Updated: July 11, 2023
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on X Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery