Limburg hospital starts large-scale coronavirus mutation study
Monday, 18 January 2021
The Jessa Hospital in Hasselt has started sequencing the genome of the new coronavirus, examining mutations on a large scale of 2,000 samples per week.
The samples can be analysed within 3 to 4 days of detecting an infection, and are double the number analysed by the university hospitals of Ghent, Antwerp and Liège and the Rega Institute, who currently examine some 1,000 samples per week.
From 7 to 13 January, 3,454 PCR tests were carried out in the laboratory of Jessa Hospital. Of the 109 positive samples, 24 were sequenced, making it possible to show which mutations are present. The UK variant was detected in one of the 24 samples studied.
The Limburg hospital uses equipment used in cancer research – Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) – which it has transformed to detect mutations in the coronavirus in 3 to 4 days instead of the 10 days usually required, depending on the hospital.
In addition to the existing network around the Limburg hospital, there are nine other NGS networks recognised for cancer research in Belgium that can do the same.
The hospital hopes to be able to integrate this initiative into a national project supported by the government. At present, there is no funding for research and the sequencing will be done at the hospital’s expense.