2 unknown mutations of SARS-CoV-2 found in Cebu
CEBU CITY, Philippines – Scientists in the country have discovered the presence of at least two mutations of SARS-CoV-2, which could explain the continued increase of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in Cebu.
Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, spokesperson of Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7), announced on Thursday, February 18, 2021, that they recently found ‘variants of concern’ from COVID-19 patients subjected by their bio-surveillance.
“These two new mutations are now what we call ‘variants under investigation’,” said Loreche in a mix of English and Cebuano.
DOH-7 tagged these mutations as E484K and N501Y.
Loreche, in a press conference on Thursday, said presence of two mutated viruses were discovered from at least 37 samples belonging to recent COVID-19 patients whom they earlier suspected to have the more infectious UK variant.
“Out of the 50 samples that were subjected for genomic sequencing, 37 of them were positive of these two mutations of concern. That’s equivalent to 58 percent,” she explained.
“These two mutations of concern are also of global concern. Not only for us in Central Visayas. Because apparently these are the mutations related to increased transmissibility,” she added.
However, Dr. Jaime Bernadas, DOH-7 director, told media in the same press conference that these are still initial results of their ongoing bio-surveillance.
Bernadas said they still needed further surveillance, epidemiological investigations, and do an entire genomic sequencing to properly establish the nature of the mutated viruses and give them a more appropriate name.
“As of this point, we already did the necessary containment measures to prevent rapid spread and transmission, and the patients (infected with the mutations) have since recovered,” he noted.
To recall, the regional health office here initiated a bio-surveillance last January to detect the presence of the UK variant and also to determine the likelihood of a locally mutated version of the virus.
This developed after Central Visayas saw a continued rise of confirmed COVID-19 cases since the start of 2021.
A total of 161 swab samples from infected patients qualified under DOH-7’s bio-surveillance were sent to the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) for genomic sequencing.
Of this figure, 60 have tested negative for the presence of B117, or the UK variant which, on average, is 56 percent more infectious than the original version.
The increase in mobility among Cebuanos in the recent weeks also prompted health experts to do a bio-surveillance, pointing that transmission of a virus from one host to another increases its chances of mutation.
“What we intend to do further is to be aware that virus do mutate and can change its characteristics – whether it becomes more pathogenic or more virulent. The most critical thing we should do is stop its transmission,” explained Bernadas.
As of February 17, the latest COVID-19 bulletin from DOH-7 showed that Central Visayas has 5,240 active cases which refer to patients still infected with SARS-CoV-2.
The region has been placed under the most lenient community quarantine – modified general community quarantine (MGCQ).
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