180 Covid samples to be tested for virus variants



Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony says 180 COVID-19 samples would be sent to the Icahn School of Medicine in New York for genomic sequencing.

The Minister made this disclosure on Tuesday, during the opening of a training session for regional health officers.

Dr. Anthony said while Guyana does not have the capacity to do gene sequencing, it has established partnerships with agencies that can. This includes the Caribbean Public Health Agency, which tested 10 abnormal samples for Guyana in February.

Those samples did not reveal the presence of any mutation of the disease.

However, Minister Anthony said because of Guyana’s geographic location and the changing nature of the disease, the Government sought other testing sources.

“We still believe because of where we are located that we would have challenges with emerging variants and because of that, we want to ensure that we could understand better the variants that are circulating. So, we have a partnership now that we have developed with the Icahn School of Medicine in New York and the Mount Sinai Group.

“Hopefully, in another week or, so we will be sending 180 samples to them, for them to go through and to check for different things for us,” he said.

Some of those samples, Dr. Anthony noted, are from persons who would have died from Covid.

“Those cases of persons who have died because they got the more severe form of the disease, to see whether or not the strains that they were infected with is the regular strains that were circulating or whether it’s something else, and those who got reinfected to see whether or not it’s one strain or it is a different strain,” he explained.

Samples from persons who were infected, who were around areas bordering Brazil from Regions Eight and Nine, would also be sent for testing.

COVID-19 variants have been discovered in the United Kingdom, in South Africa, the United States of America. Neighbouring Brazil has the P1 strain of the disease.  This strain is feared to be more transmissible than earlier forms of the disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said “sequencing enabled the world to rapidly identify SARS-CoV-2 and develop diagnostic tests and other tools for outbreak management.”

The WHO said “continued genome sequencing” would also help to monitor the transmission and the “evolution” of the virus.