FRANKFURT/BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany aims to jump-start gene sequencing efforts to closely track coronavirus mutations and to catch up with European nations that have taken the lead in viral genome decoding, such as Britain and Denmark.
Scientists suspect that more infectious coronavirus forms have sparked a rise in global coronavirus cases that have now passed 90 million, and nations are rushing to procure vaccinations and tighten lockdown steps.
A draft government order published this week by the German Ministry of Health for discussion would demand that 5% of all samples from positive coronavirus tests be submitted to specialists.
According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s infectious disease agency, that compares with a rate of about 5 percent -10 percent of viral samples being sequenced in Britain.
Another market leader, Denmark, has said it has the potential to test up to 10,000 positive samples every week.
“There is nothing to prevent us from analysing all samples in Denmark – realistically within three weeks,” Mads Albertsen, biotechnology professor at Aalborg University and the head of Denmark’s largest genome sequencing facility, told Reuters.
The RKI reports that in Germany, which is home to COVID-19 vaccine developers BioNTech and CureVac, 200 to 250 cases were sequenced in December.
Britain, which has made it a national priority for mass gene sequencing, sequences several thousand cases every day.
Early during the pandemic, led by COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK), it began monitoring virus mutations widely in its population.