Showing: 1 - 2 of 2 RESULTS

How coronavirus’s genetic code can help control outbreaks

Scroll to continue arrow-down

The six British patients seemed to have little in common besides this: Each was dealing with kidney failure, and each had tested positive for the coronavirus.

They were among scores of virus-stricken people showing up at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge in the early weeks of April. Had they lived in the United States instead of the United Kingdom, the link that allowed the contagion to spread among them might have slipped by unnoticed.

But the U.K. had done something in the early days of the pandemic that the United States and many other nations had not. It funded a national push to repeatedly decode the coronavirus genome as it made its way across the country. The process reveals tiny, otherwise invisible changes in the virus’s genetic code, leaving a fingerprint that gives scientists valuable glimpses into how the disease is spreading. It’s a cutting-edge technique that was not widely available in prior global pandemics but that researchers believe can help hasten the end of this one.

[The code: How genetic science helped expose a secret coronavirus outbreak]

Experts cite this practice, known as “genomic epidemiology,” as one more tool the United States has failed to fully employ in the fight against the virus. Though it first sequenced the 3 billion-base-pair human genome 20 years ago and spends more on basic biomedical research than almost any other nation, the United States has yet to muster the kind of well funded and comprehensive national effort that could produce a more precise accounting of how covid-19 is infiltrating communities around the country.

In the case of the six British patients, sequencing revealed they had been infected by almost identical sub-strains of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19. Epidemiologists soon determined that all six had visited the same outpatient dialysis clinic on the same day of the week. Many had ridden in the same small transport van that regularly brought patients for treatment from across the surrounding area.

Officials promptly put in place new safety measures, including mandatory masks and intense cleaning of the van and the chairs at the dialysis clinic.

“And, you know, we’ve had no further cases,” said Estée Török, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Cambridge who helped decipher the outbreak. Studying the virus’s genome “helps to highlight cryptic or hidden transmission. That’s the real power of it — you can detect outbreaks and act while they’re happening.”

Image without caption
Image without caption
Image without caption

Estée Török, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Cambridge, and her colleagues have sequenced and catalogued thousands of viral genomes since the spring. (Photos by Anastasia Taylor-Lind for The Washington Post)

Already, the United Kingdom has sequenced at least 72,529 coronavirus genomes, nearly as many as the rest of the world combined. By contrast, U.S. labs have produced less than half as many sequences as their British counterparts, based on data from the GISAID Initiative, a global database of coronavirus genomes. That’s despite the fact that the United States is battling an epidemic that’s massively larger.

Bed-Stuy ZIP Code Added To City Watchlist For Coronavirus Growth

BED-STUY, BROOKLYN — A ZIP code covering Bed-Stuy has been added to a list of areas where city health officials are worried about an increase in coronavirus cases, the health department said Wednesday.

The 11205 ZIP code — which stretches over Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and an eastern portion of Bed-Stuy — is one of seven neighborhoods where the coronavirus test positivity rate has been on the rise, and recently reached between 2 and 3 percent.

The seven neighborhoods were added Wednesday to the Health Department’s areas of concern, though they have not yet reached the “alarming” rate of 10 New York City neighborhoods where positivity rates have spiked above 3 percent.

Those 10 Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods, now including Fresh Meadows/Hilcrest, are part of coronavirus clusters that have prompted a ramp up in testing and enforcement of coronavirus rules in the last week.

The city’s overall 14-day positivity rate was at 1.43 percent Wednesday. The daily New York City rate had spiked to a months-long high of 3 percent on Tuesday, largely because of the neighborhood-level upticks.

In the Bed-Stuy ZIP code, the positivity rate’s 14-day average reached 2.07 percent Wednesday, which includes an increase of .3 percent from the previous day.

The Health Department has already tripled the capacity of COVID Express testing sites in Fort Greene and Crown Heights, another newly-added ZIP code to the watchlist, the department said.

The city has also started fining New Yorkers who refused to wear masks after being offered one and have started checking up on private schools throughout the areas of concern.

Here are the 14-day average positivity rates for all 17 neighborhoods of concern as of Wednesday:

10 Neighborhoods With Rates Above 3 Percent

  • Edgemere/Far Rockaway (11691): 4.74%

  • Gravesend/Homerest (11223): 6.9%

  • Midwood (11230): 5.62%

  • Borough Park (11219): 6.51%

  • Bensonhurst/Mapleton (11204): 6.31%

  • Gerritsen Beach/Homecrest/ Sheepshead Bay (11229): 4.13%

  • Flatlands/Midwood (11210): 4.66%

  • Kew Gardens (11415): 3.29%

  • Kew Gardens Hills/Pomonok (11367): 3.68%

  • Fresh Meadows/Hillcrest (11366): 3.08%

Seven Neighborhoods With Rates Between 2 and 3 Percent

  • East Williamsburg/ Williamsburg (11211/ 11249): 2.06%

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (West)/Clinton Hill/Fort Greene (11205): 2.07%

  • Kensington/Windsor Terrace (11218): 2.79%

  • Brighton Beach/Manhattan Beach/Sheepshead Bay (11235): 2.97%

  • Crown Heights (East) (11213): 2.30%

  • Rego Park (11374): 2.66%

  • Hillcrest/Jamaica Estates/Jamaica Hills (11432): 2.69%

This article originally appeared on the Bed-Stuy Patch

Source Article