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AdventHealth Scientists Are Testing Patient Samples for COVID-19 Variants Including Florida Ones

Photo: Mufid Majnun
Photo: Mufid Majnun

Geneticists at AdventHealth in Central Florida are working with California-based genomics company Helix to test patients for COVID-19 variants. So far, some 1,000 patients who had already signed up for a standard PCR COVID-19 test with the hospital system have been tested.

AdventHealth’s Genomics Director Dr. Wesley Walker says saliva samples from patients are being collected and sequenced for known variants like the UK variant. 

He says knowing the prevalence of these variants will help state and local officials plan for the next phase of the COVID public health response.

“If you’ve got something that’s spreading potentially faster. You’re going to be able to predict that there will probably be, there may be more infections and so you can plan for that. So I think there’s a planning function.”

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And although they’re not ready to release the data yet, Walker expects they will also find local Florida variants as the virus continues to mutate. 

“It will be looking for different variants local as well as again the UK, Brazil and others. Again, we don’t have the results back, but that’s exactly what we’re going to be looking at.”

[audio wav="https://www.wmfe.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/13002_GENOMICS_DANIELLE-1.wav"][/audio]

Walker says there are currently some 330 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at AdventHealth’s Central Florida hospitals.

He says this is a downtrend trend in cases, but that the rate at which cases have been decreasing has slowed.

Danielle Prieur covers education in Central Florida.