Whole Genome Sequencing for COVID-19

Whole Genome Sequencing for COVID-19
February 16, 2021 -- Whole genome sequencing (WGS) determines the order of bases in the genome (genetic material) of an organism. A genome consists of multiple genes which determine the characteristics of the organism.

WGS in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Genome sequencing enabled the world to rapidly identify SARS-CoV-2 and later develop diagnostic tests and other tools for the response. Continued COVID genome sequencing will be important for public health officials to track the transmission routes of the virus globally, detect mutations quickly to prevent the spread of new strain types, identify viral mutations that can avoid detection by established molecular diagnostic assays and affect vaccine potency, and screen targets for possible COVID-19 therapeutics.

The Importance of WGS

There is growing concern over fast spreading, novel variants of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, such as the B.1.1.7 strain originally identified in the United Kingdom. This novel variant is more easily transmissible than other SARS-CoV-2 virus strains and infection with this strain may lead to approximately 30% higher mortality rates.

WGS in Iowa

The State Hygienic Lab regularly submits positive specimens to the CDC’s National SARS-CoV-2 Strain Surveillance (NS3) program for genomic analysis. SHL also sequences selected Iowa patient specimens per request of the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) to look for potential novel variant strains, possible reinfection, or potential vaccine breakthrough.

Requesting WGS

IDPH is the requesting authority for all COVID genomic sequencing. Healthcare providers with questions or requests for sequencing should contact IDPH at 515-242-5935 or 1-800-362-2736. Patients must work with their healthcare provider.

More Information

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