The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed Thursday that at least 75 public health, academic and commercial institutions are collaborating to study the genome of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The initiative has been dubbed Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology and Surveillance (SPHERES). Its goal is to conduct “large-scale, rapid genomic sequencing of the virus that causes COVID-19.” The initiative will involve 37 state and local public health laboratories, as well as clinical diagnostic corporations and academic and nonprofit institutions across the US.
A report by the New York Times explains how “tiny mutations accumulate” in the novel coronavirus’s genetic code as it replicates. Scientists can track and investigate the replications to develop an understanding of how the virus is evolving over time.
The CDC predicts that the research from the initiative will help officials “gain important insights to support contact tracing” and will “better align sequencing requirements and resource needs with different sources of funding, technology, expertise and other means of support.”
Gene sequences have previously been shared among researchers to better understand and track influenza, and the method was also used in response to Ebola outbreaks in several African countries, according to the New York Times.