The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expanding its Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance (TGS) program to provide early detection of influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and other respiratory viruses in addition to COVID-19.
According to a Nov. 8 Passenger Terminal Today report, the CDC will pilot over the next several months with partners Ginkgo Bioworks and XWELL to monitor over 30 viruses, bacteria, and antimicrobial-resistant pathogens. Under the pilot, samples that test positive will undergo genetic sequencing, with results uploaded to public health databases to inform policymakers.
The expanded surveillance was initially launched at four major international airports: New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington D.C.
“The expansion of the Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance program to flu, RSV, and other pathogens is essential as we head into fall respiratory season,” said Dr. Cindy Friedman, chief of CDC’s Travelers’ Health Branch. “The TGS program, which began during the Covid-19 pandemic, acted as an early warning system to detect new and rare variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and will do the same for other respiratory viruses going forward.”
Sampling may include voluntary nasal swabs
Launched in 2021, TGS utilizes three approaches at seven U.S. airports: voluntary nasal swabs of arriving international travelers, wastewater sampling, and collection of air samples from aircraft cabins. TGS provided early detection of the SARS-CoV-2 BA.2.86 variant within days of its global identification, informing public health officials it had spread to Asia after originating from a traveler from Japan.
As of September 2023, over 360,000 air travelers have voluntarily and anonymously participated in TGS, covering flights from over 135 countries across all World Health Organization regions.
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