Less global COVID-19 data spurs worries of missing a variant

Researchers are concerned about whether the next COVID-19 variant of concern will be spotted in time as multiple countries are constricting their surveillance work, Nature reported Jan. 24. 

China's near silence on COVID-19 reporting has some infectious disease experts worrying about delayed information on the coronavirus changing and potentially having to play catch-up. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, most countries tracked variants by targeted sequencing of hospitalized patients to discover more severe variants and from immunocompromised patients with lengthy infections because extended cases can lead to a heavily mutated virus, according to Nature. The constant sequencing has leveled off for the past year, however. 

A rapid boost in a new variant's number of mutations attracts attention as a potential variant of concern, which can be one that has stronger evasion to immunity protections, causes more severe disease or is more transmissible, Nature reported. If there are fewer eyes on a potential spike in a variant's mutation number, regional and national responses can be deferred. 


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