At a time when COVID-19 left the world paralyzed, isolated and reeling in crisis, the University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) in Lahore extended a helping hand in the fight against COVID-19 in Pakistan.
UVAS is working in close collaboration with the Punjab Health Department in various ventures ranging from providing technical services and capacity building, to running COVID-19 diagnostics and determining sewage water-based epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2.
UVAS primarily deals with issues and problems in the veterinary sector. However, in the current situation where COVID-19 has changed our concept of boundaries, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Dr Nasim Ahmad, took an initiative early in the pandemic under the One Health approach, and fast-tracked the development of a laboratory for diagnosis of COVID-19 in human samples. The resulting “Biosafety Level-3 Laboratory for Emerging Pathogens” was evaluated and approved for conducting diagnostic tests of COVID-19 by Punjab Healthcare Commission. Since April 2020, this laboratory has conducted more than 80,000 PCR based COVID-19 diagnostic tests on human samples.
It is noteworthy that Prof Dr Tahir Yaqub, Director at the Institute of Microbiology at UVAS, along with other faculty members and post-graduate students at the institute, undertook this task as volunteers. They continue to contribute to the best of their abilities.
In collaboration with the Health Department in Punjab, UVAS also optimized SARS-CoV-2 detection and quantification protocols from sewage water at different localities to develop a “Smart Surveillance Strategy for Smart Lockdown”. Quantification of the SARS-CoV-2 genome from sewage water and its association with the actual COVID-19 burden in the human population was useful in execution and implementation of the “smart lockdown” strategy in Pakistan.
These efforts are another example of the rapidly evolving “One Health Concept” and the significant role that veterinary universities and facilities may play in human health.