Much of the US data to catch the latest coronavirus variants is months old

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Countries with much less resources, such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Suriname, process samples faster than the United States.

“It’s pathetic,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, virologist at Baylor College of Medicine.

“By the time you wait (85) days, a streak can go from a rare variant to half the virus circulating in a population,” Hotez said.

Genetic sequencing is the key to finding new mutations. When too much time passes before a sequence is released, it can be more difficult for scientists to detect a new mutation, notify the world, and take the appropriate steps to control it.

“We need to have this data much faster in order to see what’s going on,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota and a member of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris Transition. Covid-19 Advisory Committee.

The UK, one of the fastest countries to display genetic sequencing, takes 24 days.

“When a lot of countries are doing better, a lot better, I think that tells us that the United States should pull itself together,” said Dr. Nancy Cox, former director of the influenza division of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. United.

A CDC official told CNN that the time lag reported on GISAID was “misleading” but “speed is something we are going to improve.”

GISAID is a ‘repository of genomic data that is generated for many purposes, including genomic monitoring (these samples tend to have short turnaround times) and research projects (which have quite variable intervals between collection samples and submission), ”Dr. Gregory Armstrong, director of the Bureau of Advanced Molecular Detection at the CDC’s National Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Zoonotic Diseases, wrote in an email to CNN.

In the United States, CDC laboratories, state health departments, private companies, and universities submit sequences to GISAID.

“All of this isn’t to say that the turnaround time doesn’t matter,” Armstrong added, noting that “the footage we get through our contracts with big labs has all been from late December to early January. ”

CDC hopes to double number of coronavirus samples checked for new mutations

The United States has been criticized not only for being late, but for sequencing too few virus samples given the proliferation of the virus in the country.

The United States has mapped and released samples of nearly 70,000 people with Covid-19, according to GISAID. It is just behind the United Kingdom, which has posted more than 150,000.

However, the United States has had many more cases of the coronavirus than any other country – over 22 million. The second highest is India, with around half that number.

If we consider the publications in proportion to the number of cases, the United States is insufficient. According to GISAID data, it displays 2.8 genetic sequences per 1,000 cases, or 34 other countries behind.

“Do we have to be the last or the bottom with everything with Covid?” Said Cox, the former head of the CDC. “It’s really frustrating to see that we’re not doing better when I know we could have done better. ”

At the end of last year, the United States was sequencing about 3,000 samples per week. At the start of this year, the CDC set a goal that in two weeks that number will increase to 6,500 samples per week posted by US laboratories.

In the week of Jan. 2-8, 10,619 samples were sequenced by labs in the United States, Armstrong said. He noted, however, that the CDC probably cannot take credit for most of these samples and that only 1,001 of the samples were from the previous four weeks.

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