WebMD News Brief

CDC Forms Group to Share COVID-19 Sequencing Data

cdc headquarters

May 4, 2020 - Today in the world of coronavirus news –

The CDC is bringing together public and private laboratories, universities, corporations, and health agencies to share research about how the coronavirus is spreading across the nation.

Participants will put data about COVID-19 genomic sequencing into the public domain, according to a news release from the CDC. That real-time information, which will show how the virus mutates and spreads, is designed to help public health officials interrupt chains of transmission, prevent new cases of illness, and guide ways to do contact tracing and control infections.

Ultimately, the data-sharing should save lives, the CDC says.

"The U.S. is the world's leader in advanced rapid genome sequencing,” CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said in the release. “This coordinated effort across our public, private, clinical, and academic public health laboratories will play a vital role in understanding the transmission, evolution, and treatment of SARS-CoV-2. I am confident that our finest, most skilled minds are working together to help us save lives today and tomorrow."

The group is called SPHERES, which stands for SARS-CoV-2 Sequencing for Public Health Emergency Response, Epidemiology and Surveillance. SARS-CoV-2 is the scientific name for the new coronavirus.

The CDC listed 21 state health departments, 20 academic institutions, 13 corporations, and 10 federal agencies and laboratories that were involved in the launch, including its own Office of Advanced Molecular Detection.

The data will be placed in public repositories at the National Library of Medicine's National Center for Biotechnology Information (NLM/NCBI), the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID), and other public sequence repositories.

The CDC’s Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD) program will lead SPHERES. That program has worked with federal, state, and local health agencies to strengthen infectious disease surveillance and outbreak response, the CDC says.

Duncan MacCannell, the unit’s chief science officer, told The New York Times that the United States would coordinate its efforts with international partners.

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on May 04, 2020

Sources

CDC, news release

The New York Times, “Labs Across U.S. Join Federal Initiative to Study Coronavirus Genome.”

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