Work to rapidly sequence whole genomes of coronavirus is proving ever successful at the University, with a collaborative team contributing sequences from patients with confirmed cases of coronavirus. As part of their work for the consortium, the team has expanded its capacity to be able to sequence around 120 samples per week; initially over a 12 week period. Update: 1026 SARS-CoV-2 genomes have been sequenced in just over 8 weeks!!
The COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium includes the NHS, public health agencies, Wellcome Sanger Institute, and numerous academic institutions including the University of Sheffield. Expert groups across the country are working together to rapidly analyse the genetic code of coronavirus samples circulating in the UK. In doing so, the consortium will provide unique cutting-edge intelligence about the cause of the disease to share with public health agencies, hospitals, regional NHS centres and the government to help combat the virus.
The bioinformatics analysis team supporting this COVID-19 project is led by Dr Matthew Parker and Dr Dennis Wang in the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Sheffield Biomedical Research Centre and the Department of Computer Science (pictured right).
Dr Thushan de Silva, Senior Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Consultant Physician in Infectious Diseases from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease, is leading a collaborative team who are working in partnership with our Trust’s regional NHS virology laboratory based at the Northern General Hospital, to respond to the rapidly evolving outbreak of the virus in the Yorkshire region. Dr de Silva said: “By looking at the whole virus genome in people who have had confirmed cases of coronavirus, we can monitor changes in the virus at a national and global scale to understand how the virus is spreading and whether different strains are emerging. This will help coordinate agile responses to new infectious diseases as they spread and mutate in local populations, informing clinical care of patients and even saving lives. “The facilities and expertise we have here in Sheffield are key to a successful project like this. Our work will contribute to the UK effort to generate timely, accessible data to help in the management of the current outbreak for the national consortium.”
You can hear more from Dr de Silva on the BBC Sounds ‘Science in Action’ clip where he discusses research which found a key mutation in COVID-19 here in Sheffield – his interview starts at 31:51 https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3cszh08
- The team is also publishing its samples to a global research consortium, where the genome sequences are accessible on a public database used by researchers and scientists working on solutions to the coronavirus outbreak worldwide. The GISAID database can be accessed here.
- The UK Consortium, supported by the Government, including the NHS, Public Health England, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and Wellcome, will enable clinicians and public health teams to rapidly investigate clusters of cases in hospitals, care homes and the community, to understand how the virus is spread and implement appropriate infection control measures.