Sept. 14, 2021 — Every day, greater than 140,000 folks within the United States are recognized with COVID-19. But regardless of how curious they’re about which variant they’re combating, none of them will discover out.
The nation is dotted with labs that sequence the genomes of COVID-19 circumstances, and the CDC tracks these outcomes. But federal guidelines say these outcomes aren’t allowed to make their approach again to sufferers or medical doctors.
According to public well being and infectious illness consultants, that is unlikely to change anytime quickly.
“I know people want to know — I’ve had a lot of friends or family who’ve asked me how they can find out,” says Aubree Gordon, PhD, an epidemiology specialist on the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “I think it’s an interesting thing to find out, for sure. And it would certainly be nice to know. But because it probably isn’t necessary, there is little motivation to change the rules.”
Because the exams which are used haven’t been permitted as diagnostic instruments below the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments program, which is overseen by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, they will solely be used for analysis functions.
In reality, the scientists doing the sequencing hardly ever have any affected person info, Gordon says. For instance, the Lauring Lab at University of Michigan — run by Adam Lauring, MD — focuses on viral evolution and at present exams for variants. But this isn’t executed for the sake of the affected person or the medical doctors treating the affected person.
“The samples come in … and they’ve been de-identified,” Gordon says. “This is just for research purposes. Not much patient information is shared with the researchers.”
But as of now, except for sheer curiosity, there’s not a purpose to change this, says Timothy Brewer, MD, a professor of drugs and epidemiology on the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and of Medicine.
Although there are rising variants — together with the brand new Mu variant, also called B.1.621 and not too long ago labeled as a “variant of interest” — the Delta variant accounts for about 99% of U.S. circumstances.
In addition, Brewer says, therapies are the identical for all COVID-19 sufferers, whatever the variant.
“There would have to be some clinical significance for there to be a good reason to give this information,” he says. “That would mean we would be doing something different treatment-wise depending on the variant. As of now, that is not the case.”
There is a loophole that permits labs to launch variant info: They can develop their very own exams. But they then should undergo a prolonged validation course of that proves their exams are as efficient because the gold commonplace, says Mark Pandori, PhD, director of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory.
But even with validation, it’s too time-consuming and dear to sequence giant numbers of circumstances, he says.
“The reason we’re not doing it routinely is there’s no way to do the genomic analysis on all the positives,” Pandori says. “It is about $110 dollars to do a sequence. It’s not like a standard PCR test.”
There is a hypothetical state of affairs which will warrant the discharge of those outcomes, Brewer says: if a variant emerges that evades vaccines.
“That would be a real public health issue,” he says. “You want to make sure there aren’t variants emerging somewhere that are escaping immunity.”