Want to See What COVID Strain You Have? The Government Says No

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Sept. 14, 2021 -- Every day, much than 140,000 radical successful the United States are diagnosed with COVID-19. But nary substance however funny they are astir which variant they are fighting, nary of them volition find out.

The state is dotted with labs that series the genomes of COVID-19 cases, and the CDC tracks those results. But national rules accidental those results are not allowed to marque their mode backmost to patients oregon doctors.

According to nationalist wellness and infectious illness experts, this is improbable to alteration anytime soon.

“I cognize radical privation to cognize -- I've had a batch of friends oregon household who've asked maine however they tin find out,” says Aubree Gordon, PhD, an epidemiology specializer astatine the University of Michigan School of Public Health. “I deliberation it's an absorbing happening to find out, for sure. And it would surely beryllium bully to know. But due to the fact that it astir apt isn’t necessary, determination is small information to alteration the rules.”

Because the tests that are utilized person not been approved arsenic diagnostic tools nether the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments program, which is overseen by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, they tin lone beryllium utilized for probe purposes.

In fact, the scientists doing the sequencing seldom person immoderate diligent information, Gordon says. For example, the Lauring Lab astatine University of Michigan -- tally by Adam Lauring, MD -- focuses connected viral improvement and presently tests for variants. But this is not done for the involvement of the diligent oregon the doctors treating the patient.

“The samples travel successful … and they've been de-identified,” Gordon says. “This is conscionable for probe purposes. Not overmuch diligent accusation is shared with the researchers.”

But arsenic of now, speech from sheer curiosity, determination is not a crushed to alteration this, says Timothy Brewer, MD, a prof of medicine and epidemiology astatine the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and of Medicine.

Although determination are emerging variants -- including the caller Mu variant, besides known arsenic B.1.621 and precocious classified arsenic a “variant of interest” -- the Delta variant accounts for astir 99% of U.S. cases.

In addition, Brewer says, treatments are the aforesaid for each COVID-19 patients, careless of the variant.

“There would person to beryllium immoderate objective value for determination to beryllium a bully crushed to springiness this information,” helium says. “That would mean we would beryllium doing thing antithetic treatment-wise depending connected the variant. As of now, that is not the case.”

There is simply a loophole that allows labs to merchandise variant information: They tin make their ain tests. But they past indispensable spell done a lengthy validation process that proves their tests are arsenic effectual arsenic the golden standard, says Mark Pandori, PhD, manager of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory.

But adjacent with validation, it is excessively time-consuming and costly to series ample numbers of cases, helium says.

“The crushed we're not doing it routinely is there's nary mode to bash the genomic investigation connected each the positives,” Pandori says. “It is astir $110 dollars to bash a sequence. It's not similar a modular PCR test.”

There is simply a hypothetical concern that whitethorn warrant the merchandise of these results, Brewer says: if a variant emerges that evades vaccines.

“That would beryllium a existent nationalist wellness issue,” helium says. “You privation to marque definite determination aren’t variants emerging determination that are escaping immunity.”

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