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UK Funds to Stay Ahead of Variants

The UK plans to spend an additional £29.3 million (US$40.7 million) on its effort to stay ahead of any SARS-CoV-2 viral variants, the Guardian reports.

This new funding comes on top of £19.7 million already promised to the UK's Porton Down facility, it adds. Currently, scientists at Porton Down are analyzing about 700 blood samples a week to gauge the effectiveness of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines against viral variants and plan to boost their testing capacity to 1,500 samples a week by January, the Guardian says. This infusion of new funding would enable them to double that capacity to 3,000.

In a statement, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, the new funding would "enable us to further future-proof the country from the threat of new variants."

The Financial Times notes that there are four variants of concern circulating in the UK and that existing vaccines provide some protection against them. Still, Sharon Peacock, the head of the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium, tells it that "[looking] ahead, we need to study new variants very closely, particularly when the majority of the population have been vaccinated, and identify variants that could pose a greater threat to current vaccines."

The Scan

Alzheimer's Risk Gene Among Women

CNN reports that researchers have found that variants in MGMT contribute to Alzheimer's disease risk among women but not men.

Still Hanging Around

The Guardian writes that persistent pockets of SARS-CoV-2 in the body could contribute to long COVID.

Through a Little Spit

Enteric viruses like norovirus may also be transmitted through saliva, not just the fecal-oral route, according to New Scientist.

Nature Papers Present Method to Detect Full Transcriptome, Viruses Infecting Asgard Archaea, More

In Nature this week: VASA-seq approach to detect full transcriptome, analysis of viruses infecting Asgard archaea, and more.