Carika’s work could cut virus diagnosis time
A Bermudian scientist in England yesterday said her genetics research could reduce Covid-19 diagnosis from days to hours and help save lives.
Carika Weldon, a researcher at Oxford Genomics Centre, part of Oxford University Hospitals, said: “For me the main concern has been the long wait in Bermuda for testing — five to six days.”
Dr Weldon is working on nanopore sequencing in ribonucleic acid, RNA, a substance found in all living cells that acts as a messenger carrying instructions from DNA.
She explained that with a process of extraction and examination of the RNA from a patient sample, Covid-19 test time could be reduced from days to five to six hours.
Dr Weldon said: “I just wish I could have helped with diagnosis in Bermuda.”
She added: “All the steps of how the test is conducted are what I teach in my science outreach.
“This whole situation has really brought to light how urgently Bermuda needs human genetics research on island.”
She added this type of research is still relatively new but has been used for diagnosis in some labs in China.
Dr Weldon said: “The delay in diagnosis means infected people don’t know for sure for longer.
“If they are isolated in the meantime that’s great, but if not, they could have spread it far and wide.”
Dr Weldon said Covid-19 was not difficult to identify because researchers had isolated its sequence in January and passed the results around the world.
She explained: “This is why the test kits can be developed because the sequence is fully known.”
Dr Weldon said she was not sure if high summer temperatures would reduce the number of Covid-19 cases. She added:
“I’ve seen reports that the virus doesn’t like heat, but I’ve yet to see any hard evidence.
“From what I’ve read, the virus isn’t stable in high temperatures above 122F, so it may be that summer helps. But only time will tell.”
Dr Weldon said there might be a vaccine available by the end of the year. She added: “Human trials have started. These need to last a couple months to see the effect of the vaccine.
“That takes us to summer. Once it’s shown to work, there are more regulations it must go through before it’s widely available.
“Most predict the end of the year for this to be done.”
Dr Weldon was speaking from Abuja, Nigeria, where she is visiting a friend.
She added she will have to wait and if she will be able to fly back to her home in Oxford on Sunday.
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Ada Nyabongo (1926-2020)
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