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Bill for Viral Sequencing

A bill introduced in the US House of Representatives would provide $1.75 billion for genomic sequencing to help identify SARS-CoV-2 mutations, the Associated Press reports.

The US sequences less than 1 percent of positive COVID-19 samples, limiting its ability to spot viral changes, it adds. By contrast, the UK, which identified the B.1.1.7 SARS-CoV-2 strain there in December, sequences about 10 percent of its positive COVID-19 samples. Scientists told the New York Times last month that a national viral genomic surveillance approach is needed in the US to detect variants.

The new bill, which the AP notes cleared the Energy and Commerce Committee last week, would give the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the ability to develop a national network to track viral mutations. A similar bill, which would give $2 billion in funding, has also been introduced in the Senate, it adds.

"Variants represent a growing threat," Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), who introduced the Senate version, tells the AP. "At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing our testing capacity was essential to our ability to track and slow the spread of the virus — the same is true for finding and tracking these variants."