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E-learning Modules on Bioinformatics in Animal Viral Pathogens

21 March 2013

GLOBAL - With the support of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the joint FAO/International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) division, the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics (SIB) initiated the development of a publicly accessible e-learning bioinformatics course on animal viral pathogens.

According to FAO, this development was made following numerous requests for bioinformatics trainings by animal health diagnostic laboratories in developing countries. The first module of this course, called "Phylogenetics of animal pathogens: basic principles and applications" has recently been released to the public.

It has been designed as a self-learning module for animal health laboratory staff and is organized in four chapters: 1) basic notions on phylogenetic trees; 2) how to build phylogenetic trees; 3) how to interpret phylogenetic trees, and 4) exercises. It includes many examples based on influenza, Foot-and-Mouth and Peste des Petits Ruminants viruses, as well as several quizzes for the trainee to assess his/her understanding. It requires about 4 hours to complete the entire course. Another module on multiple sequence alignment and local sequence similarity search will be developed in the coming months.

FAO and the FAO/IAEA joint division also deliver face-to-face bioinformatics courses, and will continue to do so, given the importance of pathogen sequencing and sequence analysis for the future of laboratory work and scientific knowledge. This e-learning module can be used in the future by FAO and the FAO/IAEA joint division – and any other institution or organization - as a required pre-course, before more specialized face-to-face courses, for selected participants, and as a means to ensure minimum and common knowledge among participants. FAO and the FAO/IAEA joint division also strive for increased sequencing capacities and capabilities of animal pathogens in the developing world.

The SIB has leveraged its long-term experience in training and educating biologists over the last decade in phylogeny and bioinformatics, as well as on earlier experiences in e-learning. The choice of this short-module format and the possibility to publish the course on a variety of supportive trainings, is a key element for e-learning and can be applied to many other topics of life science, such as epidemiology. This work has been funded under the Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) IDENTIFY program.

Further Reading

You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.

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