The Health Minister counteracts local laboratory claims of the presence of a new COVID-19 strain in the country
Kaieteur News – Health Minister, Dr. Frank Anthony, has countered claims made by a local lab that state that the new strain of the COVID-19 virus could be present in Guyana and could carry out tests.
In carrying out the COVID-19 update on Thursday, the Minister claimed that Guyana does not have the capacity to test for the new strain of the virus whether in public or private institutions. In light of this, the stress in the country making those reports is not detectable.
The new strain of the virus was first announced by the United Kingdom late last year and it was also reported that a new strain was found in South Africa.
On December 30, last year, the Minister made the initial announcement that the country does not have the capacity to test for the new strain of the virus, but noted that the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) can do the tests and discussions are on plan to send out samples.
Explaining further, Dr. Anthony that none of the local labs have the in-house capability because the tests are done by genetic sequencing. He said, “To distinguish variants and / or mutations with the virus would mean that our laboratories have to be able to carry out genetic analysis and we do not have that.”
Minister Anthony did not name the local lab during his address, however, the private lab of Eureka Medical Laboratories Inc., announced on Monday that it can do tests for the new strain. Subsequently, there have been reports in other parts of the media indicating that, according to tests done by Eureka, the new variant of the virus could be in Guyana since December last year. It was reported that the laboratory had found “abnormalities” in people who tested positive for COVID-19. These abnormalities according to Paul Cheddie, Laboratory Manager of Virology in Eureka, were discovered in December mainly in people who recently traveled outside Guyana.
Cheddie told other media departments that the test the organization is using includes identifying three genes associated with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. He said those genes help enable the COVID variants to bind to human cells, which later enter and infect cells. Adding to that, he said in testing that if one gene is found less, there is a possibility that the individuals may become infected with the new variant.
Releasing them on Monday, they said, “We would like to assure our valued customers and partners that the tests we are currently using to detect SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) can identify people who have common stress is successful. of the virus or its mutated variants. ”
But Cheddie later said that Eureka can determine if a person is likely to be infected with a variant of COVID-19 but cannot say definitively what variant the person might be infected with.
Cheddie was quoted as saying, “Any further identification or characterization of the variant would require us to make genomic sequencing that we are unable to do at present, mainly due to resource constraints.”
The Health Minister has since urged those who release information that the new variant could be Guyana to be vigilant as it is yet to be found here and Guyana has no capacity to test for it.