The general practice in testing COVID-19 patients is to send swab samples to the lab where it will be tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. If the result is negative the question of what is making the patient sick still remains. Sorting out what is at the heart of the illness is a big challenge for clinicians. Whether or not one of the pathogens is the coronavirus, any pathogen can leave the immune system too weak to deal with other infections.
With flu season on the horizon co-infections will become a problem as viruses and bacteria ‘gang up’ on our bodies. Imagine having a cough, fever, and the chills from the flu, then getting exposed to COVID-19. Or the other way around. Genome capture technology research led by the University of Regina with support from Genome Prairie’s COVID-19 Rapid Regional Response (COV3R) program will help with the diagnosis so that doctors can zero in on treatments more quickly.
A testing swab will contain a variety of bacterial and viral material and researchers will be able to pull out the genetic material for many pathogens that are known to infect our respiratory tract. Different strains of pathogens can also be identified which will go a long way to track sources of infections and how they are being spread. The COVID-19 part of the testing data will go into Genome Canada’s Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network (CanCOGeN)
initiative. A pretty good range of use from a single test.
Freelance broadcaster Don Hill talked with Andrew Cameron, an associate professor of biology at the University of Regina and the lead for the COV3R project.