Opinion: Botswana lab that identified omicron is model for global health goals

April 29, 2022 – The first lab to identify the omicron COVID-19 variant, established by the government of Botswana and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, is a model of a successful global health response, according to an article in Think Global Health.

The April 13, 2022 article, by Michelle Gavin, senior fellow for Africa at the Council on Foreign Relations and former U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, featured the work of the Botswana–Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership (BHP) and Sikhulile Moyo, who directs the Botswana–Harvard HIV Reference Laboratory and is a research associate in immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard Chan School.

Originally founded to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic, BHP pioneered programs and research to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission and improve health outcomes. “Early warning about omicron happened because decades of HIV-related work in Botswana honed expertise and built infrastructure around infectious disease surveillance and molecular diagnostics, which BHP quickly adapted to address COVID-19,” Gavin wrote.

The example of BHP can inform global public health goals moving forward, Gavin continued. “As policymakers grapple with the global health inequities exposed by the pandemic, and rethink everything from global pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity to surveillance strategies, the BHP lab provides insights into the benefits of investing in African capacity and paying close attention to Africa’s health priorities,” she wrote.

Read the Think Global Health article: Inside the Lab that Identified Omicron