CDC to ramp up genome sequencing of Covid-19, says report

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on January 04, 2021

This will help understand mutations that could aid the virus to be more contagious

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects to check more samples for the new Covid strain to understand the new mutations in the coming weeks, a top official said on Sunday, as cited in a CNN report.

Dr Gregory Armstrong, director of the Office of Advanced Molecular Detection at the CDC’s National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, revealed that the CDC is now sequencing around 3,000 samples a week and may double it to 6,500 per week.

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The genome sequencing — determination of the entire genetic map of the pathogen — is carried out to understand the mutations that could aid the virus to be more contagious.

“It's important that we monitor the virus and that we be able to pick up these trends that have implications for public health and clinical medicine,” Armstrong told CNN.

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Grants to labs

A new variant had emerged in Britain in late 2020. The virulent virus was more contagious than the previous strains, although it does not affect the severity of the disease, as per earlier reports.

The new strain has been circulating in at least 37 countries, including the US, where cases have been detected in California, Colorado, and Florida.

To accelerate the sequencing process, the CDC gave about $15 million to state health labs in December. It also granted around $8 million to seven university labs to conduct sequencing of the virus, Armstrong revealed.

Since the inception of the outbreak, the US has submitted around 57,000 genomic sequences to GISAID, a centralised database used by countries around the world, while the UK has already submitted about 141,000 sequences even after it reported far fewer cases of the virus than the US.

Armstrong believes that this is because the UK has a more centralised system for sequencing. However, in the US several different types of labs — federal, state, academic, and private — are doing the work. “It’s a somewhat patchy system,” Armstrong added.

Published on January 04, 2021

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