Genomics sequencing is being used in Canada and around the world to help understand, control, and track SARS-CoV-2. Viruses by their very nature, mutate and change over time. The concern over the variants of the coronavirus is that they are becoming more common and are more easily transmitted. Like any other organism, each variant of SARS-CoV-2 has a unique genetic code and if we can keep tabs on those variants and share the information, public health officials and researchers around the world will be able to study the mutations, see how fast they spread, and determine whether they cause more serious symptoms in people who get sick with COVID-19.
To coordinate the effort, Genome Canada received funding in April of 2020 to form the Canadian COVID Genomics Network (CanCOGeN). Catalina Lopez-Correa is Executive Director of CanCOGeN. The consortium has responded to the rise in variants by targeting outbreaks which seem to be spreading quickly and geographic regions with higher growth rates. The initiative is also sequencing the genomes of patients to understand why some people get sicker or end up being re-infected.
She spoke with freelance broadcaster Don Hill. Here is part 1 of their conversation.