Nebraska lab conducts detailed tests to track coronavirus


OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Nebraska officials are monitoring coronavirus variants by sequencing the entire genome of virus samples.

Peter Iwen, director of the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory, said the detailed tests performed each week help scientists identify mutations in the virus and track how they affect the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

So far, the lab has not identified any of the major variants of the virus that were first identified in the UK and South Africa in the state. But researchers have found two other mutations that could affect the ability of the virus to cause serious infections and symptoms, according to the Omaha World-Herald.

The lab uses an automated machine that can map the DNA of 32 virus samples at a time. Iwen said the lab’s goal is to perform three tests per week every week. He said it was more than most labs had the capacity to do. Each batch of 32 samples costs $ 3,500.

Federal officials are working to expand these DNA tests for the virus across the country to better track variants of the coronavirus. The Nebraska lab recently received federal funding to help it expand its work.

The state said it administered around 53,000 doses of the vaccine last week. This was down slightly from the 55,000 delivered the week before, as winter weather conditions across the country delayed some vaccine shipments last week.

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