For the first time in its history, the Costa Rican Institute for Research and Teaching in Nutrition and Health (INCIENSA) has managed to sequence the genome of a virus. Thursday, it announced it had mapped the genome of the coronavirus.
“We achieved the sequencing of the complete genome of six samples from patients with COVID-19, from the month of March,” explained the General Director of INCIENSA, Liseth Navas. “We have been working in molecular epidemiology for about 10 years, a technique that allows us to identify the sources of contagion of outbreaks such as the one we are currently experiencing.”
The coordinator of the INCIENSA genomics laboratory, Francisco Duarte, affirmed that this discovery gives a series of advantages for public health in the country.
“We are going to use that information to find out and compare the viruses, to know if they are similar to each other, where they come from, if the patients are sharing the same virus or if the cases are related. It is very useful for the prevention, control and diagnosis of diseases,” he said.
Duarte added that now it will be possible to detect if there is any change in the SAS-CoV-2 virus that circulates in Costa Rica and will help to give more accurate forecasts about its presence in an individual.
“This helps us to know if the virus has mutations over time. If the sequence changes over time, we may have a problem with the diagnoses, so now we can ensure the quality of those results,” he said.
INCIENSA experts stated that if vaccines for the coronavirus are developed, understanding the genome will help determine which one will be most effective in Costa Rica.
Two of the genomes obtained by INCIENSA are close to the genomes obtained from samples analyzed in the United States. The other four genomes are associated with clusters from different parts of the world.
A version of this story was originally published by Semanario Universidad on April 30, 2020. It was translated and republished with permission by The Tico Times. Read the original report at Semanario Universidad here.