The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] According to the federal authority, has not achieved a goal of quickly accelerating the monitoring of potentially dangerous coronavirus mutations.
Earlier this year, Dr. Gregory Armstrong, director of the CDC’s advanced molecular detection office at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, told CNN that he hopes the agency will more than double the number of coronavirus genomes sequenced in the U.S. over the next two weeks . While the number of sequences increased in those two weeks, it did not double.
The hope was to sequence an additional 3,500 coronavirus samples per week. However, according to CDC figures, only 2,250 to 2,650 additional samples were sequenced. More are expected as soon as private labs recently went online to support the effort.
Finding out new mutations is a critical part of fighting the spread of the virus. While most mutations are harmless, some can potentially spread faster, be more deadly, or be resistant to coronavirus vaccines.
The US has been criticized for its lackluster sequencing program. Last week, President-elect Joe Biden said he would increase funds for coronavirus surveillance when he takes office.
“We just don’t have the robust surveillance capabilities we need to track outbreaks and mutations,” said a Biden US rescue plan released last week.
According to an analysis by the Broad Institute of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology using the data, the US ranks 33rd worldwide in sequences per 1,000 cases of Covid-19, trailing behind countries with far fewer resources like Senegal and Sierra Leone back from GISAID, an independent initiative for data exchange.
“We’re not even as good as Ouagadougou,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, Infectious Disease Specialist at Baylor College of Medicine, on the capital of Burkina Faso.
Hotez added that the US is “deeply small” when it comes to genome sequencing, and that’s tragic. And it costs American lives. “
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