SC lab begins monitoring COVID-19 variants

South Carolina News

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WCBD) – A South Carolina lab has begun “one of the nation’s largest variant surveillance initiatives” to track mutated COVID-19 strains.

Premier Medical Laboratory Services (PMLS) is currently conducting genomic sequencing of 6,000 specimens per day, and plans to double that number in the next month.

Understanding how the virus is evolving is critical in the fight against COVID-19, especially in determining whether existing vaccines are effective against variants.

PMLS explained that “the COVID-19 virus is structured so that inside each nucleocapsid protein is the viral genome, which over time can mutate for the virus to be more efficient at spreading and to potentially cause more severe illness than the original strain. Genomic sequencing decodes the genomes to learn about the virus and how it is evolving.”

According to the company, “in order to make the adjustments to vaccines, scientists developing them need genomic sequencing data on a large scale, like that being produced by PMLS.”

Variants include the Indian variant (B.1.617), the UK variant (B.1.1.7), the Brazil variant (P.1), the South African variant (B.1.351), the California variant (B.1.427/B.1.429), and the New York variant (B.1.526).

PMLS founder Kevin Murdock said that the goal is to be “proactive with these new variants in case any adjustments need to be made within the healthcare industry for patient care, or new safety protocols need to be put in place.”

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