TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As the coronavirus continues to mutate, scientists at Tampa General Hospital are taking the lead and analyzing what variants are in Tampa Bay.
“What variant you carry may or may not determine what we use to treat you,” said Dr. Seetha Lakshmi, Medical Director, Global Emerging Diseases Institute, and TGH Assoc. Epidemiologist.
Inside the lab at Tampa General Hospital scientists are analyzing nasal swabs from patients using variant sequencing.
“Tampa General Hospital is one of the only laboratories in the state that is currently performing in-house sequencing tests to identify these new variants as they emerge,” according to a release.
“Sequencing is a way to identify and understand the variants circulating in our hospital and our community,” said Dr. Suzane Silbert, PhD Scientific Director of Esoteric Testing/R&D and Microbiology Laboratories at Tampa General Hospital.
A donation from the TGH Foundation allowed the lab to purchase new equipment to ramp up their testing, which allows scientists to identify and track new variants in Tampa Bay.
“We are working closely with the Department of Health, but we are also uploading the sequences on this global network that aims to monitor the variants around the world,” said Dr. Silbert.
Not only is the data being shared worldwide, it’s being used to help treat patients locally.
“We have a 37-year-old gentleman that did catch Covid after his first dose of vaccine. He really has got an immune response but he still caught covid and he’s very sick. He’s on a breathing machine, so we’re sequencing his virus to see what variant it is, and does it make a difference how he reacts to what we are giving him,” said Dr. Lakshmi.
Medical experts hope this surveillance will be another tool, and another step closer to ending the pandemic.
“If we want to stay ahead of the pandemic, we want to know the variants that truly are concerning, because it will mutate,” said Dr. Lakshmi.