CDC ramps up efforts to detect coronavirus variants

The CDC is now aiming to sequence 7,000 coronavirus samples per week to detect new variants, marking a large boost from the 251 samples sequenced during the week of Jan. 10, The New York Times reported Feb. 1. 

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said the agency was still working with commercial lab partners to ramp up its sequencing system, named NS3, as of last week to heighten its ability to detect coronavirus mutations. The CDC's lab partners committed to analyzing 6,000 samples per week by the middle of this month, Dr. Walensky said during a Feb. 1 COVID-19 briefing, according to the Times. 

While the number of virus samples has increased significantly in recent weeks, it's still far off from what experts have previously said is needed to get a good picture of just how widespread coronavirus variants are in the U.S. Experts have said at least 1 percent of virus samples should be sequenced weekly, with 5 percent the more preferable number, and at around 1 million U.S. COVID-19 cases per week, sequencing 6,000 samples would fall short of that.  

As of Jan. 31, there were 467 reported cases of the U.K. variant, known as B.1.1.7, three cases of the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, and one case of the P.1 coronavirus variant linked to Brazil, according to CDC data. 

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