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Most Out of Viral Sequencing

As part of the pandemic relief bill, the US is pouring money into COVID-19 genomic sequencing efforts, but MIT's Technology Review writes that getting the most out of this analysis — which requires following patients over time — may be difficult in the US.

Scientists and lawmakers lamented the low rate of sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 viral samples in the US, and have called for it to ramp up. Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided a boost for such efforts and the recent pandemic relief bill included $1.75 billion in funding for public health sequencing programs.

As Tech Review notes, the rationale for viral genomic surveillance typically discusses the ability to identify new variants that can evade natural or vaccine-induced immunity or that cause more severe disease. However, it adds that to make those determinations, patient data connected to the viral samples is needed, but that is often not possible in the US due to privacy regulations as well as siloed public health systems.

Tech Review adds that a cohesive strategy — and one that looks beyond the current pandemic — is needed as public health agencies and officials adapt. "Whatever tools and infrastructure we build now, they can be used for a lot more than just COVID," Lane Warmbrod from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security tells it.