Over 600,000 positive COVID tests genomically sequenced in UK

pharmafile | July 5, 2021 | News story | Sales and Marketing COVID-19, Delta variant, UK, government, variant 

The UK has genomically sequenced more than 600,000 positive COVID-19 test, it was announced on Friday.

Genomic sequencing plays a key role in the identification of new variants of concern (VOC) and also in capturing critical data about the virus at is identifies a virus’s genetic make-up, allowing new variants or mutations in existing variants to be detected.

It is estimated that the UK contributes around 23% of all COVID-19 sequencing across the world uploaded to GISAID, a global data sharing initiative.

GISAID includes genetic sequence and related clinical and epidemiological data associated with human viruses, and geographical as well as species-specific data associated with avian and other animal viruses, to help researchers understand how viruses evolve and spread during epidemics and pandemics.

In a statement the UK government said the genomic sequencing carried out in the UK played a crucial role in the rapid identification of the Delta (B1.617.2) variant. This led to faster action from the government, deploying additional support to areas where variants of concern have been prevalent, such as surge testing and enhanced contact tracing, to help slow the spread of variants by breaking chains of transmission.

Sajid Javid, Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “The UK has an established history of scientists developing incredible genomic technology striving to improve patient outcomes around the world. Every single test sequenced helps us to learn more about this awful virus, and brings us one step closer to defeating it.”

Surge testing has been rolled out to specific areas across the country to monitor and suppress the spread of COVID-19 and to better understand new variants. Genomic sequencing is a key part of surge testing as it enables scientists to continue to identify variants of concern, as well as any changes to known variants or to identify new emerging variants that need to be followed. All positive tests with high enough viral load in surge testing postcodes and from identified test sites will be sent for sequencing.

In addition to surge testing, the government is providing additional support packages to stop the spread of the Delta variant which includes support for those self-isolating and activity to maximise vaccine uptake in the area.

UKHSA chief executive Jenny Harries said: “As we continue to follow the government’s roadmap to a way of life that feels more familiar, sequencing genomes will become even more important than it is already. It allows us to track how the virus is mutating, helping us to respond more effectively and decisively to the threat of emerging variants and providing insight that is helping to shape the response to this pandemic across the globe.

“I am enormously grateful to those who have worked so hard to get us to this point. With every genome sequenced, we learn more about the virus and equip scientists and experts in the UK and across the world with much needed data and insight.”

Kat Jenkins


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