ROME – The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has chosen the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB) as a designated reference centre to expand its access to state-of the-art technology in combating dangerous viral infections.
FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Juan Lubroth said in a press statement released on Tuesday.
FAO said viral infections such as avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease, in farm animals and wildlife.
According to the statement, SIB is equipped with high performance computers, software, databases and a knowledge base used for screening and monitoring zoonotic diseases.
According to Lubroth, the new technology helps us understand biological threats in order to help countries better prevent, respond and ultimately protect the health of humans, animals and the environment
“These are like avian influenza, also known as bird flu, it strikes animals but can also be transmitted to humans.
“Working closely with FAO, SIB experts have developed tools to improve early detection and fast alert systems to prevent and respond to transboundary disease emergencies in poultry or livestock, it stated.
SIB specialises in bioinformatics, a relatively new science which employs computer technology to study biological data.
Scientists use bioinformatics to gather process and analyse information on the genomes of pathogens, the genetic material peculiar to specific micro-organisms, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi that cause diseases in their hosts.
This lets them compare genomes, understand protein structures, and identify how diseases work at the molecular level.
Such information enables scientists to develop new drugs and targeted treatments as well as improve the effectiveness of existing medicines.
The new technologies play an important role in understanding the nature and dynamics of biological threats.
FAO, in collaboration with SIB, has developed online e-learning courses on bioinformatics in viral pathogens that could help laboratory technicians, physicians, veterinarians and researchers improve their work while increasing access to this emerging field of competence. (PANA/NAN)