A CDC traveller-based genomic surveillance programme will expand to two new US international airports

Ginkgo Bioworks, which is building a platform for cell programming and biosecurity, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and XpresCheck, by XWELL, a provider of onsite pathogen screening, will roll out the CDC's traveller-based genomic surveillance programme (TGS) to new collection locations at Miami International and Chicago O’Hare International airports.

Additional programme funding and expanded programme scope, which will double the CDC's current investment in TGS, will be used to substantially increase the volume of nasal and wastewater samples collected, tested, and sequenced using a custom multipathogen panel. This expanded funding will also bring the number of airports in the programme to nine active sites: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York (JFK), Washington Dulles, Newark, Boston, Seattle, Miami, and Chicago.

Since its inception in September 2021, the TGS programme has demonstrated its ability to serve as an early detection mechanism for new pathogens and fill gaps in global biosurveillance.

The programme has detected several novel strains of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), using different sample types, including nasal swabs collected anonymously from volunteer international travellers arriving at participating airports hosting mobile testing centres in terminals, as well as wastewater samples from airplanes and airport triturators. In October 2023, the programme expanded to cover a list of more than 30 viral and bacterial targets.

The first phase of multipathogen testing and sequencing in November and December 2023 proved successful, and the TGS programme was able to detect positive samples containing several pathogens of interest, including influenza A and B, RSV, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacteria that causes pneumonia.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to take the TGS programme to the next level.  Multipathogen biomonitoring expands this critical biosecurity infrastructure for the United States,” said Matt McKnight, general manager for biosecurity at Ginkgo Bioworks. “The frequency of new outbreaks around the world reminds us every day that persistent and strategically focused biosurveillance is paramount to ensure readiness and rapid response. We are honoured that CDC continues to trust this consortium to deliver a strategic piece of our biothreat preparedness.”

The programme continues to innovate in the space of pathogen genomics and biosecurity by introducing new collection modalities, launching in new locations, and refining the list of target pathogens to provide a clearer picture of what pathogens are circulating in the international travel system.

Chicaho O’Hare is among the latest airports to join the programme
Chicaho O’Hare is among the latest airports to join the programme Patrick L Pyszka, City of Chicago