Jan 09, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – The Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony has countered claims made by a local laboratory indicating that the new strain of the COVID-19 virus may be present in Guyana and they could do testing.
While delivering the COVID-19 update on Thursday, the Minister maintained that Guyana does not have the capacity to test for the new strain of the virus whether at public or private institutions. In light of this, the strain cannot be detected in the country making those reports false.
The new strain of the virus was first announced by the United Kingdom late last year and it was also stated that a new strain was found in South Africa.
On December 30, last year, the Minister made the initial announcement that the country lacks the capacity to test for the new strain of the virus, but he did state that the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) can do the testing and discussions are underway to have samples sent out.
Further explaining, Dr. Anthony said none of the local laboratories possesses the in-house capacity because the testing is done through genetic sequencing. He said, “To differentiate between variants and/or mutations with the virus, it would mean that our laboratories must be able to do genetic analysis and we don’t have that.”
Minister Anthony did not name the local laboratory during his address, however, the Eureka Medical Laboratories Inc., a private laboratory had announced on Monday that it can do testing for the new strain. Subsequently, reports were seen in other sections of the media stating that according to tests done by Eureka, the new variant of the virus may have been in Guyana since December last year. It was stated that the lab detected “abnormalities” in persons who tested positive for COVID-19. These abnormalities according to Paul Cheddie, Virology Laboratory Manager at Eureka, were discovered in December mainly in persons who recently travelled outside of Guyana.
Cheddie told other sections of the media that the test the institution is using involves identifying three genes linked to the virus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. He said that those genes help to enable the COVID variants to bind to human cells, which later enters and infects cells. Adding to that, he said that when testing is conducted if one less gene is found then there is a possibility that the persons can be infected with the new variant.
In their release on Monday, they said, “We would like to reassure our valued customers and partners that the assays we are currently using to detect SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) are capable of successfully identifying persons with either the common strain of the virus or its mutated variants.”
But Cheddie later said that Eureka can determine if a person has likely been infected with a variant of COVID-19 but cannot definitively state which variant the person might be infected with.
Cheddie was quoted saying, “Any further identification or characterisation of the variant would require us to do genomic sequencing which we are not able to do at this time, mainly because of resource constraints.”
The Health Minister has since urged those releasing information that the new variant might be in Guyana to be cautious since it is yet to be detected here and Guyana lacks the capacity to test for it.
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