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Bahrain: Vaccines tailored to treat illnesses prevalent in Bahrain could soon be on the way as a database of genetic samples from the kingdom is poised to be included in the global 'GenBank'.

GenBank, set up in 1982, is a database of annotated genes openly accessible and cited by millions of researchers around the world and is maintained by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, part of the National Institutes of Health in the US.

Five Bahraini technicians are being trained to man the recently-launched state-of-the-art gene sequencing laboratory in Bahrain which is expected to assimilate the data by the end of the year.

The 20sqm lab, situated inside the Public Health Directorate and equipped with the new generation apparatus (PGM-ION Torrent NGS) with multiple automated machines ranging in cost between BD80,000 to BD100,000, was launched in November.

The lab is expected to be fully functional by the end of next month.

The five medical technologists with master's and bachelor's degrees in biomedical sciences are being trained by experts from Saudi Arabia.

According to molecular technique experts, the move to include Bahraini genetic samples in GenBank will help it fight major flu-related illnesses and help manufacturers to develop vaccines suited to Bahraini society.

"Once we obtain comprehensive results from our studies, we will share this information with the GenBank, which will then have a reserve of gene samples from Bahrain.

"It will help them keep data about the kind of pathogens circulating in Bahrain, the type of drugs that could treat them and to prepare the best vaccines for the country," Health Ministry's public health directorate laboratory medicine in-charge Fatima Shehab told the GDN.

"This is more like finger-print analysis - getting the details of pathogen genomic material (DNA or RNA) and the whole sequence of the gene," she said.

"The benefits are that we can trace the origin of infection. For example, some infections originate in India or Pakistan before they reach here.

"Tracing the source of specific diseases originating in Bahrain could result in better patient management and monitoring.

"By sharing the sequence with GenBank, we will be opening the doors to vaccine manufacturers, with data to provide specific vaccines for Bahrain.

"This will also help in identifying drug-resistant strains.

"In many cases, if this information is available early in patient management, more efficient regimes can be selected, which is helpful in diseases like influenza and tuberculosis."

Ms Shehab said that the samples will be taken from health facilities across Bahrain where there is an ongoing screening of patients who have flu-like symptoms.

"We have ongoing screening of patients with fever and rash as part of the ministry's efforts to eradicate measles and rubella.

"We get the gene samples and at one given time, up to 96 samples can be sequenced at this lab. The final result is available within three days.

"It is faster than manual mechanisms and each gene that enters the database is barcoded.

"It helps reduce human error to almost nil, assuring of high level of accuracy in the results."

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Jan 19, 2016
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