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Teasing Out How Infections Spread

The Chan Zuckerberg Biohub is teaming up with the California Department of Public Health to offer viral genome sequencing of samples from COVID-19 patients, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

By sequencing patient samples, scientists may be able to tease out patterns of viral transmittance and determine, for instance, if two infected co-workers were infected at work or at separate, non-work-related events, it says. 

"Where it's the most helpful is understanding the number of circulating strains in a given community, to understand if there's been a new introduction of a strain to a particular geographic area or facility," Joe DeRisi, co-president of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, tells the Chronicle. "That establishes whether you're looking at ongoing, in-community transmission, or whether there's been an outside introduction that was unbeknownst to you."

The Chronicle notes that the Biohub has already been sequencing some COVID-19 samples — including ones from nursing homes, packing plants, and prisons — and that with this new partnership will scale that work up. It further adds that the Biohub won't be sequencing all patient samples but ones that may shed light on how outbreaks have popped up.