Scientists trying to stay one step ahead of the COVID-19 variant

Positive COVID-19 tests from hospitals and regional testing programs across the country are sent to a network of 17 laboratories, where scientists extract and analyze genetic material from each cotton swab and the virus’s unique genetic code. To identify. The sequence is then cross-referenced with public health data to better understand how, where and why COVID-19 is spreading.


If a mutation in the virus corresponds to an increase in cases that cannot be explained for other reasons, it is a clue that a new variant of concern is circulating in the area.

The importance of genomic sequencing became apparent at the end of last year as the number of new infections began to skyrocket in southeastern England. As the number of incidents continued to increase despite strict local regulations, public health officials went to work to find out why.

Scientists have combined data from genomic sequencing to identify new mutants, including many mutations that make it easier for the virus to fly from person to person.

Armed with this information, Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a national blockade and abolished the local restriction strategy that failed to contain new variants.


Scientific research is very important, but researchers need to sift through thousands of harmless mutants to find rare and dangerous mutants, like looking for needles in a haystack. Thing.

“It is essential to understand which mutants are in circulation both in the UK and around the world, so we need to understand their impact on vaccine development and how vaccines are adapted,” she said. ..

This effort is a global collaboration, with more than 120 countries sending sequences to GISAID, the first data-sharing hub created to track influenza viruses.

Iceland, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark actually have a higher proportion of COVID-19 cases than the UK and Denmark works faster, but COG-UK work is of UK size and a large number of cases. Coupled with that, it became the world. COVID-19 sequence leader. The United Kingdom submitted 379,294 of the approximately 898,000 sequences in the GISAID database.

The study is also benefiting developed countries like Denmark, where scientists use tools developed in the UK to analyze their own data, as part of Denmark’s whole-genome sequencing efforts. Mads Albertsen, a professor at Aalborg University in Denmark, said.

“The best thing the UK has ever done is the entire setup,” says Albertsen. “Therefore, they have more researchers and a much more specialized structure regarding how to use the data.”

Scripps Research’s Topol said the United States is also trying to learn from Britain as the Biden administration overturned its predecessor’s anti-scientific policy and delayed the country’s alignment efforts. COG-UK representatives participated in a recent call with US researchers and the Rockefeller Foundation for capacity building in the United States.

“For the honor of Peacock and the crew, they didn’t just stop in turn,” Topol said. “They organized a lab to do other work. This is actually a very intensive lab assessment. And there is also an epidemiological assessment. That is, everything needs to ignite in every cylinder. It’s like a 12-cylinder car. They all have to fire to move. “

The success of British sequencing dates back to the work of James Watson, Francis Crick, and Rosalind Franklin, who allegedly discovered the chemical structure of DNA, laid on the foundation of Britain’s groundbreaking genetic science. Other British scientists have developed early sequencing techniques and new techniques that reduce the time and cost of subsequent sequencing.

Its success further expanded the UK’s pool of expertise, attracting investments such as Wellcome Trust’s 1992 decision to establish a Sanger Center to support the mapping of the human genome. The United Kingdom National Health Service has also provided a wealth of data for researchers to study.

Still, colleagues say Peacock prefers to emphasize the work of others, but personally deserves many of the achievements of COG-UK’s success.

A ferocious organizer, she united the country’s DNA detectives through goodwill and chat rooms. Andrew Page, an expert in computer analysis of pathogen genomics working with COG-UK, has partly convinced prominent scientists to set aside ego and academic rivals and work with pandemics. It was to support the fight.

Peacock’s work on this project earned her notoriety and Monica the Variant Hunter Inchif, but she prefers simpler terms.

“I think, first and foremost, I’m a scientist doing his best to help people in both the UK and the rest of the world control the pandemic,” she said. “Probably there is a better phrase for that, but scientists do it.”


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Scientists trying to stay one step ahead of the COVID-19 variant

Source link Scientists trying to stay one step ahead of the COVID-19 variant

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