The Philippine Genome Center (PGC) is hoping to increase its whole genome sequencing capability to better track the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variants across the Philippines.
PGC Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Saloma said they can currently sequence 750 samples per week.
“Our data [shows] we are sequencing less than one percent of the positive [COVID-19] cases in the country. That’s why for this effort it’s really very important to do a very good sampling design so that we can have a better picture of the cases that we see in our communities as well as of course in our airports,” Saloma said in a CNN interview on Monday, June 28
“As far as the Philippine Genome Center is concerned, we actually have five powerful machines that can be utilized for whole genome sequencing. So it’s really a question of people, and of course, there are also moves…we will share with you as soon as they become concrete, to increase the capability of the country for whole genome sequencing, not only in Metro Manila but also in other areas of the Philippines,” she pointed out.
She noted that the automation of RNA extraction could help improve PGC’s whole genome sequencing capacity.
“If the automation for extraction can be done, it will really improve our sequencing capability because we have the machines. To a certain extent, we also have the people as well as the bioinformatics team behind us,” she added.
Saloma said conducting genome sequencing is important to track and control the introduction and spread of COVID-19 variants, such as the more contagious Delta variant.
So far, PGC has detected 17 cases of COVID-19 Delta variant in the country.
Saloma reiterated that there is no community transmission of the Delta variant in the country yet.
“We are continuing our genome sequencing and we hope that we will be able to control the spread and the introduction of this variant through strict border controls,” she said.