BREAKING! With More Than 300 New Variants Now In Circulation, Urgent Need To Introduce Mandatory Genomic Sequencing Of All SARS-CoV-2 Infections
: Never in the history of virology have experts ever witnessed the rapid evolution of a single type of virus spewing out a variety of mutations and spawning an unprecedented rate of new variants and sub-lineages over a very short time period.
In the beginning of the pandemic, many ‘dinosaurs’ in the medical and research communities insisted that the SARS-CoV-2 will not mutate and even if it does, it will simply die off! We also had other ‘experts’ who claimed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus will mutate but slowly.
Fast forward, besides the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants that emerged and in some cases like the Delta variant wreaking more havoc, we then had the emergence of the Omicron variant and now we are facing a threat never seen in any pandemic before.
The various Omicron variants and sub-lineages are not only evolving at exponentially raid rate but a number are also undergoing recombinant events, churning out even more ‘interesting’ sub-lineages.
In the last six months, hundreds of such new Omicron variants and sub-lineages have emerged but scientists working overtime have narrowed down about 353 such variants and sub-lineages that seem to have the relevant viral fitness to become predominant in circulation as already many are turning up in various samples sent for sequencing.
The worrisome XBB variant for instant has now spawned the XBB.1 sub-lineage that is also starting to rise in circulation.
The BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are now also joined by their more worrisome siblings, the BQ.1.2, BQ.1.3, BQ.1.4, BQ.1.5, BQ.1.6. BQ.1.7, BQ.1.8 , BQ.1.9, BQ.1.10, BQ.1.11, BQ.1.12, BQ.1.13, BQ.1,14, BQ.1.15, BQ.1.16 and BQ.1.17 while some are even spawning further sub-lineages like BQ.1.10.1
Despite all the hard work by the scientist involved, the current data obtained from open platforms like GISAID, CoV-Spectrum, Nextclade while helping to identify new emerging SARS0CoV-2 spectrum, does not give an actual representation of what is really happening in the general population at any given time as the number of test samples being sequenced is extremely very low compared to the number of daily infections being detected.
Already many COVID-19 News
outlets are reporting that even standard COVID-19 testing is way down in many countries around the world and as a result of many governments wanting to go back to the ‘normal’ pre-pandemic economic activity, many are not even collating or reporting COVID-19 data properly.
The percentage of samples being sent for sequencing is extremely low. While in states like Washington in the United States, where local authorities claimed that 6.9% of all confirmed molecular COVID-19 cases were sequenced
, the number of such confirmed molecular COVID-19
cases were so small due to lack of easy access of such testing to the infected public.
With so many are using the rapid antigen test kits which are actually not very reliable as far as many of the new sub-lineages are concerned, no sequencings are ever required for such positive results. In some countries, no sequencings are ever even done while in most, the number of samples sent for sequencing represent less than 0.01 percent of the daily infections reported!
Most of these new variants and sub-lineages are not only more transmissible but they are also more immune evasive.
And with so many different new variants and sub-lineages emerging, each displaying different degrees of immune evasiveness and reacting differently to the different existing monoclonal therapeutics like Evusheld, Bebtelovimab, and Sotrovimab, it is very important now that there that so many variants and sub-lineages in circulation that genomic sequencings also be incorporated in the clinical setting so as to enable physicians to be able to make fast and reliable decisions as to what treatment protocols to administer to infected patients.
With more reliable studies emerging showing which sub-lineages possessing certain mutations are less likely to have increased fusogenicity, such information can help doctors and attending physicians to make the correct clinical decisions in treating the infected.
As more study findings emerge on the specific characteristics of each mutation and also the tropisms exhibited by each variant or sub-lineage and also their specific pathogenesis, genomic sequencing data will play a critical role in helping doctors make the correct clinical decisions.
Mandatory genomic sequencing for every identified COVID-19 case will also help identify why some are only developing asymptomatic or mild conditions and also help give a more realistic real-time perspective of how the virus is evolving and what factors are behind its evolution along with a more accurate geographic illustration of what is happening at any given location.
The move can also help authorities stamp out worrisome variants fast by being able to identify detailed geographical locations and to impose ‘quick ‘restrictions, measures or lockdowns covering a smaller area faster to help control the virus spread and to eradicate it.
Though genomic sequencing can be costly, economies of scale coupled with newer innovations can help cut down the cost drastically and maybe even the rich vaccine manufacturers and pharma companies and tech billionaires can be made to pitched in.
Should the various governments fail to introduce mandatory sequencings, not only will be seeing more increased mortality rates as everyone will be literally navigating the pandemic in the dark but we will also possibly miss out of spotting earlier the emergence of the potentially lethal variants.
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