DOH to conduct a ‘special run’ of genome sequencing for South African COVID-19 variant

Published March 3, 2021, 8:11 PM

by Analou de Vera

In order to have a better picture of the presence of the South African variant of the coronavirus in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) has collected swab samples of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients in some areas in the National Capital Region (NCR) for a “special run” of genome sequencing.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Vergeire (Facebook/ MANILA BULLETIN)

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that they did a “purposive specimen collection” coming from Pasay and the other cities in Metro Manila.

“We know that in Metro Manila, the different cities have porous borders so we would want to see if this variant also will be detected in the other cities in Metro Manila. That is why we collected specimens and we will have a special run just specific for the National Capital Region so we can determine that extent,” said Vergeire in a television interview on Wednesday, March 3.

Vergeire said that 140 specimens were collected for this run of gene sequencing.

“This is a unique run for the specific NCR specimen so that we can be able to determine better if the other cities already have this type of variant,” she said.

The DOH on Tuesday, March 2, confirmed the presence of the South African variant of the coronavirus, involving six cases. Three of these cases were residents of Pasay City.

“This South African variant according to evidence and different publications would also have this higher transmissibility just like the UK (United Kingdom) variant. But another phenomenon that happens with this variant is yung tinatawag nila na it can affect the efficacy of the vaccine. That is why we would want to contain this as fast as we can,” she said.

“One of the mutations included into this South African variant causes this phenomenon which is the immune escape, where the production of antibodies of a person are affected by this phenomenon, and therefore the efficacy of the vaccine is affected as well. In the UK variant, we do not find this mutation,” she added.