OHSU studying COVID samples to identify variants


Study funded with $3M from feds, state

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Health and Science University just got $3 million in state and federal money to study thousands of COVID-19 test samples to identify variants.

This is a big line of defense against the coronavirus, especially when so many cases now in Oregon are coming up as variants of the original COVID-19 virus.

OHSU scientists working on the project told KOIN 6 News that by studying the genetic variants they’ll be able to more quickly identify ones that are more contagious and resistant to current vaccines, like the “breakthrough” cases where someone gets COVID after being fully vaccinated.

“Nobody has the crystal ball that whether these new variants will be driven out by herd immunity, a large percent of vaccinated population or it’s going to remain in the community in the vulnerable population,” said OHSU Dr. Guang Fan.

That could cause more outbreaks.

The research will allow them to find out the makeup — the genome — of 650 virus samples a week. Being able to quickly identify what’s happening if there’s a sudden rise in hospitalizations and deaths from a COVID-virus is key when Oregon is seeing increasing numbers of variant cases.

The studies are also expected to help with research into treatments of COVID patients based on the type of variant they identified.

The OHSU scientists continue to urge people to get vaccinated, to keep wearing a mask and maintain social distance — especially around those who are not vaccinated like younger children.

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