EPI to support international research of coronavirus variants

Black Pregnant Woman Embracing Belly And Holding Small Baby Shoes Near Her Tummy
Portrait of pregnant woman cradling her abdomen and holding baby shoes. (Credit iStock)

Public health efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic have often overlooked pregnant women and children. This leads some experts to worry that these populations are at high risk of developing new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The UF Emerging Pathogens Institute joined a consortium of global centers of excellence to study how coronavirus variants emerge and spread, as well as their impact on health. The project is called VERDI (SARS-CoV-2 variants Evaluation in pRegnancy and paeDIatrics cohorts) and it will provide an international and collaborative effort to analyze the impact of new variants in these vulnerable populations. The work is funded by the European Commission.

The EPI’s role will be to support genetic sequencing on SARS-CoV-2 variants in its high-containment labs. This will be done in collaboration with GHESKIO, a Haitian partner group with which the EPI has long collaborated. Prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, the two partner organizations collaborated over the past five years on studies of cholera. Prior to joining the VERDI project, GHESKIO and the EPI were already working on SARS-CoV-2 variant surveillance within Haitian populations.

The new research effort is expected to yield information for COVID-19 infection control in various geographical contexts along with improvement of vaccination strategies. Other partners are in Europe, the US, South Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Asia, and the program is coordinated by the University of Padua and Penta Foundation in Italy.

Written by: DeLene Beeland