P295M budget for genome sequencing in Visayas, Mindanao OKd

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P295M budget for genome sequencing in Visayas, Mindanao OKd
This undated handout image obtained March 28, 2021, courtesy of The National Institue of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/ NIH shows a transmission electron microscope image of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, isolated from a patient in the US, with virus particles (round gold objects) shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab, the spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like.
Handout / National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases / AFP

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health on Friday said that the budget needed for the expansion of the Philippine Genome Center’s capacity in the Visayas and Mindanao has been approved, paving the way for the strengthening of the country’s biosurveillance efforts.

The budget amounting to P295.7 million will allow satellite facilities in the Visayas and Mindanao to conduct whole genome sequencing, which detects the presence of variants.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said health authorities are hoping that the PGC laboratories there will start operations in a month or so. 

“This sample will definitely help us sequence more samples in the Visayas and Mindanao area,” Vergeire said in a briefing. 

At present, samples are being sent to PGC’s main laboratory in the University of the Philippines Diliman.

“At the very least, we will be able to detect more variants of concern, if ever, in their localities,” she added in Filipino. 

The country’s genome sequencing capacity is limited, with only 750 samples processed weekly. With the expansion, the two satellite facilities outside of Metro Manila are expected to process around 350 samples each.

Genomic biosurveillance plays a critical role in the government’s pandemic response as it also tracks how a virus is transmitted as well as determines if COVID-19 variants are causing spikes in cases in certain areas and if there are local transmission of the variants.

Four variants of COVID-19—Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma, which the World Health Organization has classified as being “of concern”—have reached the Philippines. 

PGC has so far detected 1,273 cases of the Delta variant, the “fittest and fastest” form of COVID-19 that is driving sharp increase in infections in the country.

Health authorities also detected Theta variant, which has been classified under “alerts for further monitoring.”


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