Fear of new virus variants pushes America toward more genomic sequencing

The United Kingdom’s genomic sequencing to identify a more infectious strain of SARS-COV-2 has been largely used as a wake-up call for insufficient use of technology in the US.

By mid-December, the US had acquired 0.3% of its COVID-19 samples, a percentage that is significantly lower than other developed countries, despite the fact that there are one-quarter of the world’s cases.

In comparison, the UK is sequencing about 10% of its samples, and Australia aims to real-time sequence all of a relatively limited number of positive COVID-19 tests.

Director of Scripps Research Translational Institute, Drs. Eric Topol said, “If you look on the world stage, America is not a show for sequencing.” “Sequencing gives us many different things. It tells us how the virus is moving from one place to another. It tells how fast it is changing. We can say that it was here on this day, and it was another day. It can tell a super-spreader. “

See it all: Here we know what about the new strain of COVID-19 so far

SARS-COV-2’s growing concern about the “hyper-transmissible” new strain has led to a greater awareness of the nation’s lack of federal funding and the development of genomic surveillance, which has led to the UK’s B1.1 strain and South Africa Helped to identify. B. 1.351 in December denote stress.

President-elect Joe Biden said on Thursday, “When we call for a dramatic boost in genomic sequencing and surveillance as part of its proposed 1.9 trillion American, we don’t have that kind of strong surveillance capability, which outbreaks.” And the mutation needs to be tracked. ” Rescue plan.

While a good portion of the federal pandemic dollar has gone toward urgent needs such as immediate testing, contact tracing, and to help drug manufacturers increase their vaccine manufacturing capabilities, experts are now calling on the US to build a robust genomic surveillance system. Moving forward that can help public-health departments identify new strains, while better addressing regional or community outbreaks.

All viruses develop, and SARS-COV-2 is believed to develop one to two variants a month, although it mutates much more slowly than the flu virus. In mid-2020, researchers began talking about the 614G mutation, which is now considered the dominant form of the virus worldwide. Now, the concern has shifted to strains B.1.1.7 and B. 1.351, which are both considered more infectious.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, B.1.1.7 strain from the UK has been found in at least 76 people in 12 states. 13. (B. 1.351 strain in South Africa has not been identified in the US at this time.)

In the US, where rates of infection, hospitalizations, and deaths continue, population-level public health initiatives are less stressed due to higher demand for testing and care.

Read: Biden plans to deliver COVID-19 vaccine supplements immediately

Intermountain Healthcare, a hospital system based in Salt Lake City, discontinued all positive COVID-19 tests for sequencing early in the epidemic. But as matters began to escalate and workload increased, the process began to become very disruptive and time-consuming and was halted, with the head of the Intermountain Division of Infectious Diseases and Epidemiology, Dr. Burt Lopansri said.

“With increasing treatment options, vaccine rollout and the emergence of novel variants, it is important to scale the sequencing,” he said in an email.

According to a model developed by sequencing company Illumun Inc., if the US sequenced at least 5% of positive COVID-19 tests, it would be able to detect emerging strains or variants when they were 1% of total positive cases. Make less than. . ILMN,
+ 2.27%.
(His model is set to be published later this week as an early, one-of-a-kind early medical study.)

The company’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. According to Phil Phobo, it will cost less than $ 500 million in 2021.

Experts say that putting money behind the National Genomic Sequencing Monitoring Network can not only help identify new variants in the future, but can also help the work of public health departments that should be prioritized Who to test, what to find out, and isolate.

It can also be used to inform vaccine manufacturers if there is a “vaccine escape strain”, a strain of the virus that may render currently available vaccines less effective or ineffective.

(A study done in a laboratory in mice by BioNtech SE BNTX,
Pfizer & Inc., PFE

Their vaccine is still shown to be effective against new strains, according to a 7 January imprint. Modern Inc., MRNA
+ 0.22%
It also said that it was confident that its MRNA vaccine would work against UK strains).

“When they see a small group of new versions coming into a community, they can react quickly,” Febo said, “and they can raise awareness of infected people and make sure that They do their best to contain it. “

See it all: FDA identifies 3 COVID-19 tests that may be affected by new forms

Earlier this month, Illumina announced plans to develop a CDC-supported national sequencing monitoring system with a privately held testing company called Helix Opco. Helix seeks samples from COVID-19 tests positive with “S gene dropout” for the sequence of Illumina. So far, they have identified at least 51 cases of B.1.1.7. In america

Incorporating genomic sequencing into national surveillance is not the only way to modernize the way the US tracks and takes action against viruses. In addition to testing, contact tracing, and isolating according to Topol, this may include genomic sequencing, monitoring of wastewater, gathering mobility data, and using digital sensors.

He said, “When we get vaccinated, then there are complete vaccines, we are going to start stopping the virus. “” And then there are going to be places that are like whack-a-mole, where the virus starts cropping up again. If you’re indexing, wastewater, digital, mobility, you basically have a real-time dashboard in the country, and you see, ‘Oh, wow, Kalamazoo is lighting up.’

Illumina shares have risen 18% in the last 12 months, while SPDR S&P Biotech ETF XBI,
59% and S&P 500 SPX,
There is an increase of 15%.


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