How UK scientists are tracking down new Covid variants – podcast

At the top of final 12 months, a crack crew of British scientists found a new coronavirus variant that may unfold internationally. The Guardian’s well being editor, Sarah Boseley, tells Rachel Humphreys about how the scientists went about tracing the variant.

The UK is world-main in its genomic sequencing and surveillance. When the coronavirus first reached the UK, genomic scientists started a significant collaborative effort to sequence samples from individuals who had fallen in poor health. The Covid-19 Genomics UK (Cog-UK) consortium included the 4 public well being companies, the Wellcome Sanger Institute and greater than a dozen universities. All viruses evolve and alter over time; a virus with one or two mutations is known as a variant. Genome sequencing goals to trace these adjustments, which more often than not are insignificant. By late December, the UK was liable for about half of all of the world’s genome sequencing of the coronavirus.

The arrival of the Kent variant was very unhealthy information for the UK, and for the remainder of the world. But whilst borders slammed shut, the UK’s pioneering genome scientists have been lauded for having discovered it. If there was any remaining doubt in regards to the significance of genome sequencing in a pandemic, it had been laid to relaxation. When the UK has fewer Covid circumstances, a much bigger proportion could be sequenced – and there’s a better probability that variants will probably be detected earlier. As world journey will increase, and lockdowns ease, that work will probably be extra vital than ever.

Photograph: Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock

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