Surveillance Gaps Anywhere are a Danger Everywhere

Globally, there aren’t nearly enough virus samples being sequenced to keep track of emerging variants.
In countries where the virus is spreading unchecked, coronavirus variants are sure to be circulating unnoticed—leaving those countries, and the world—blind to their potential toll, Science reports.
Example: It took “dogged legwork” for researchers in Europe to pinpoint a coronavirus variant that most likely emerged in Cameroon, which has scant sequencing infrastructure.
The variant included a slew of mutations that are found in other “variants of concern” that are infectious or otherwise dangerous.
Wealthy nations are doing most sequencing: As of May 10, of 152 countries with available data, 100 had uploaded sequence data for less than 1% of their reported cases to the international database GISAID.
US surveillance is finally catching up: Last week, it sequenced ~10% of all positive test cases, a key step in tracking which variants are out competing others.
The B.1.1.7 variant—which happens to be “powerless against the vaccines”—didn’t cause the dreaded fourth wave many feared, but that doesn’t mean another one, currently unknown, won’t pose a danger, The New York Times reports.
“There’s a lot of evolution to happen yet,” warns University of Chicago evolutionary biologist Sarah Cobey.

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