Sequencing in West Africa: 75 researchers strengthened through the first edition of 'Microbes Minutes'

Posted on October 7, 2021   by Dr Victorien Tamègnon Dougnon

Despite recent sequencing technologies, West Africa seems to be lagging behind the rest of the world. Sequencing platforms are not abundant, and capacity building is necessary. To fill this gap, the Beninese team of the SEBA project ‘Strengthening expertise and bioinformatics to control antimicrobial resistance in West Africa,’ collaborated with the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and the Microbiology Society to organise the first edition of the ‘Microbes Minutes’ initiative. 75 researchers from Benin, Chad, Nigeria, Russia, Denmark and Burkina Faso attended the first session.

Microbes Minutes: An innovative initiative to strengthen young African researchers on antimicrobial resistance and bioinformatics

‘Microbes Minutes’ was initiated within the framework of the project "Strengthening expertise and bioinformatics to fight against antimicrobial resistance in West Africa" (ERASMUS + KA2 - Cooperation for innovation and exchange of good practices). The general aims of this project are:

  • Provide future West African AMR experts with in-depth knowledge of the biological and socio-economic dimensions of AMR, its prevalence and transmission pathways and the skills to control its transmission using both traditional and modern methodologies.
  • Develop a self-sustaining institutionalised capacity to train experts in AMR and a One Health approach. 

‘Microbes Minutes’ is one of the initiatives proposed to optimise and have a broader impact on the community.  It will be cyclical series of online training sessions related to antimicrobial resistance and bioinformatics. It takes place monthly on the 15th via Zoom. The objectives of this initiative are to:

  • Strengthen the skills of young researchers on antimicrobial resistance
  • Raise awareness of the scientific community and the population on antimicrobial resistance
Major outcomes from the first issue of ‘Microbes Minutes’

The first issue of ‘Microbes Minutes’ took place on 15 September 2021, on the topic ‘Sequencing in Africa: Status and opportunities’. The invited experts were Lukman Abiodun Aroworamimo (Manager, Inqaba Biotec West Africa) and Joshua Oyekanmi (Technical Support Manager, Inqaba Biotec West Africa). The session was moderated by Dr Victorien Tamègnon Dougnon (Senior Lecturer, University of Abomey-Calavi, National Coordinator of SEBA Project, Country Ambassador, American Society for Microbiology in Benin), Dr Esther Deguenon (Young Ambassador, American Society for Microbiology in Benin) and Dr Brice Boris LEGBA (Researcher, University of Abomey-Calavi). The activities took place in three main steps:

Step 1: Presentation of the opportunities of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and the Microbiology Society

Dr Victorien Tamègnon presented the scientific societies. He also provided information about the story, scholarship and research opportunities and membership for both societies. Links for membership were shared with the participants with advice on how to join.

Step 2: Sequencing services of Inqaba Biotec

Lukman Abiodoun Aroworamiro, gave a presentation on Inqaba Biotec, as well as the different services they offer, and specifically those related to sequencing.

Step 3: Sanger Sequencing and Next Generation Sequencing

Joshua Oyekanmi gave the presentation ‘Sequencing Technologies – Sanger and Next Generation Sequencing’. He presented in detail the notions related to PCR, Sanger Sequencing and Next Generation. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) refers to an invitro technique, which is nucleic acid based for making numerous copies of a DNA fragment of interest, such as a gene for its identification and characterisation. DNA sequencing is a technique whereby precise order of nucleotides in a stretch of DNA can be determined. Sanger Sequencing and Next Generation Sequencing are the two main sequencing methods. Oyekanmi also presented the advantages and limitations of these two methods.

Impact and impressions of participants

The participants' evaluation forms showed that the objectives were met. 56.3% of the participants were very satisfied with the participation in this training while 37.5% were satisfied. Regarding the training content, 53.3% of the participants were satisfied while 46.7% were very satisfied.

All of this shows that the initiative was worthwhile. Africa should not be left out of the opportunities and recent technologies of sequencing. Moreover, to meet this challenge, capacity building is essential. Subsequent issues of Microbes Minutes will explore this and related topics in greater depth.