Mexican scientists succeed in sequencing coronavirus genome

“If the Covid were a criminal, the genome sequence would be the spoken portrait and description of its modus operandi, so it would help to know how it affects the health of people who acquire it according to their genetic characteristics.”

MEXICO CITY (UNAM/times Media Mexico) – Despite budget cuts made by the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador to Mexico’s scientific community, scientists from:

– The National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM)
– The National Institute of Respiratory Diseases (INER)
– The Institute of Diagnosis and Epidemiological Reference
– The Salvador Zubirán National Institute of Nutrition

Have been able to sequence the Covid-19 genome from the first patient to arrive in Mexico with the disease.

This scientific team discovery it’s being added to an international database where so far 22 different countries have sequenced the genomes of the virus that is presenting in their territories.

“This will allow us –the scientists– to understand and know the virus. How it affects the health of those, who acquire it according to the genetic characteristics of each countries population. “

“On January 11, China published the complete sequence of the Coronavirus 2019 genome. It is important because it served as the basis for the diagnostic methods used worldwide, also for the design strategy of new vaccines, and the evaluation of new antivirals. This also allowed us to follow the distribution of the virus in China to other countries,” explained Carlos Federico Arias Ortiz, a researcher at the Institute of Biotechnology who works on the Mexican team that has characterized the virus circulating in the country.

“If Covid were a criminal, the genome sequence would be the spoken portrait and description of its modus operandi.” In this metaphor, teams of scientists research the characteristics of the virus around the world, in order to determine how its activity affects the population of each country, according to its local context, and the best way to stop it.

“We have the sequence of the virus. That will allow us to follow its dispersion, see new introductions unrelated to the cases, and where it comes from. Also, the possible adaptation of the virus in different populations or environments, and eventually when there is development of antivirals, follow up on the emergence of strains resistant to those antivirals,” said Arias Ortiz at a press conference.

The study, in which scientists from the country’s most pressing health institutions participated, began with a pilot test or trial conducted last January. The objective of the pilot was to generate a protocol that would allow them to know how to sequence, immediately, the virus that arrives in Mexico.

For this trial, two samples of the coronavirus that circulates seasonally has been taken. Scientists from all the institutions met and agreed on a single, optimized protocol that included the strategies used in each scientific center. The pilot sequencing was achieved after five days of work.

In this way, when the first case of Covid 19 was confirmed in Mexico, the scientists were already prepared, and yesterday, Sunday, they managed to characterize the virus.

“We showed that we could do it, that we have the technology and capacity to respond quickly, from a scientific point of view, as they have done in other nations,” explained Arias Ortiz.

“The sequence of this virus is very associated, it has only three or four changes, with the virus that was reported from Brazil, which also came from the same area of Lombardy, Italy. This Mexican strain is closely associated with the one from Lombardy and the Brazilian case that came from the same region. As a fourth sequence component, it is a virus from Germany. They are like small genetic fingerprints that allow us to follow the dispersion of the virus,” he explained.

“This means that in time, the genomic characterization that Mexican scientists and scientists from around the world are working on today will allow us to study the virus and develop a vaccine”.

This process will not occur for at least a year, since tests need to be done in the laboratory, then in animals and finally in humans, but with particular characteristics, explained members of the University Commission for Emergency Care

“Recently, the first protocol and design of a vaccine has been reported that has demonstrated immunogenicity, the ability to generate antibodies,” explained Yolanda Lopez Vidal, an academic at the School of Medicine.

“This vaccine will not be available any time soon: it will take at least a year to a year and a half to ensure safety, protection, and efficacy in different populations around the world. There is a first prototype, there will surely be many more, and international collaboration in the search for new biologics to combat this emergency will be available in a year and a half at the earliest,” she concluded.

The Yucatan Times
Newsroom



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