The Center of Excellence for Emerging Viral Threats’ (CEVT) Viral Genomics and Surveillance Lab has surpassed uploading its’ 15,000th sequence to GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing Influenza Data). The LSU Health Shreveport CEVT team has worked tirelessly since early in the COVID-19 pandemic to sequence and track variants of SAR-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
LSU Health Shreveport continues to be the top submitter of SARS-CoV-2 data from Louisiana to online repositories like GISAID. The rapid sharing of data throughout the world during the COVID-19 pandemic has been made possible using the GISAID database. Researchers from around the globe rely on the up-to-date sequence information shared through GISAID to understand and track circulating lineages and watch for new variants of the virus that may emerge. The more that scientists can learn about the virus that causes COVID-19, like how quickly the virus is transmitted and if variants are resistant to vaccines, the better. The invaluable insights that genomic sequencing data provides directly impacts public health decisions that can save lives, which is crucial as we continue to navigate the current COVID-19 pandemic and work to better prepare for or prevent any future pandemics that could arise.
The dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States and Louisiana is an Omicron subvariant called BA.5. The CDC reports that the Omicron variant spreads more easily than earlier variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and that individuals can be reinfected with this variant even if they recently recovered from COVID-19.
A recent sample from Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, Georgia sequenced at LSU Health Shreveport was determined to be BA.2.75, another Omicron subvariant that was first detected in India in May 2022 and is currently being monitored by the World Health Organization and CDC. LSU Health Shreveport began a partnership with Mercer earlier this year through a grant received from The Rockefeller Foundation. Mercer University School of Medicine is an accelerator site working with the team at LSUHS to track COVID-19 variants in communities throughout the state of Georgia. This BA.2.75 subvariant is the first one sequenced in Louisiana but to date a positive BA.2.75 subvariant has not been detected in Louisiana. There are less than 60 BA.2.75 sequences from the United States in GISAID.
“Being able to monitor and track the spread of dominant SARS-CoV-2 variants as well as identify less dominant subvariants is why viral genome sequencing is so important. Because of our capabilities and the partnerships we have established, we are able to work together with our colleagues around the country to better understand how COVID-19 is spreading, educate our respective communities about our efforts and how they can protect themselves, and information public health decisions with sequencing data,” said Krista Queen, PhD, Director of Viral Genomics and Surveillance at LSU Health Shreveport.
The following partnerships have also been instrumental in supporting genomic sequencing efforts at LSUHS: The Rockefeller Foundation; Louisiana Tech University; Grambling State University; Mercer University School of Medicine; the NIH-funded COBREs at LSUHS - the Center for Redox Biology and Cardiovascular Disease and the Center for Applied Immunology and Pathological Processes; Louisiana Department of Health; Johnson & Johnson; The Community Foundation; Caddo Parish Commission; Willis-Knighton Health System; Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport; Our Lady of the Lake Baton Rouge; and free and charitable community health clinics.
COVID-19 vaccines are still the best way to protect against COVID-19. To learn more about the current COVID-19 vaccines available and the recommended vaccine schedules, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. The LSUHS community COVID-19 vaccination site schedule can be found at www.lsuhs.edu/covid19/vaccine.