First COVID-19 BA.4 Variant Cases in the State of Florida Identified
GREENVILLE, S.C., June 7, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Premier Medical Laboratory Services (PMLS), a highly advanced medical diagnostics laboratory based in Greenville, SC, reports their identification of the first BA.4 variant cases reported in the state of Florida. Three cases were found at the lab in positive COVID-19 samples collected from Miami-Dade County.
PMLS, which houses one of the largest variant tracing platforms in the country, can conduct a process called Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) on up to 40,000 samples per week to identify novel variants. That capability allowed their findings of some of the first BA.2, or "Stealth Omicron," variant cases in the states of Florida and South Carolina in February of 2022. The NGS data that PMLS has provided Florida and other states throughout the nation is instrumental in understanding COVID-19 transmission throughout each phase of the pandemic.
While there is another surge in COVID-19 cases due to BA.4 and BA.5, health experts are not expecting an increase in the severity of infections or resulting deaths. But, Columbia University professor of microbiology and immunology, Dr. David Ho warns, "It's a serious threat" due to its transmissibility. He said, "Only a month ago, it was .02 percent," meaning that BA.4 and BA.5 represented just .02 percent of COVID-19 cases in the nation, and now they already make up about 7 % of cases in the US.
One reason for the variants' higher infection rate is that they are more able to evade vaccines and boosters for the virus than previous strains. Dr. Ho recently conducted a study on antibodies present in those who have been vaccinated and boosted, as well as the antibodies of those presenting a natural immune response to BA.4 and BA.5 variants. In this study, they found that that BA.4 and BA.5 viruses are more than four more times likely to penetrate the COVID-19 vaccines and boosters when compared with the highly transmissible BA.2 viruses.
BA.4 and BA.5 originated in South Africa. As of the end of May, BA.4 was identified in 30 countries and BA.5 was detected in 32 countries. Because laboratories like PMLS conduct Next Generation sequencing, scientists, researchers, state health departments, and entities like the Centers of Disease Control can better understand the virus so that vaccines and boosters can be adequately altered to remain effective against the virus.
The BA.4 and BA.5 cases found by PMLS are deidentified, meaning that the names of the patients from which the samples were collected cannot be provided. PMLS will continue to conduct surveillance to help gather vital data on this new omicron subvariant and others and will report any further findings to respective state health departments.
Premier Medical Laboratory Services (PMLS), headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, is an advanced molecular diagnostics lab fully certified by top laboratory accrediting organizations, including CLIA and CAP. PMLS prides itself on delivering some of the most rapid turnaround times of testing results in the industry and patient friendly billing. They offer thousands of advanced medical diagnostic tests and screenings including genomic risk assessment assays for heart disease and diabetes, as well as women's health panels, toxicology, allergy testing, pharmacogenomics, routine blood chemistry, and noninvasive prenatal testing (NIPT). With a heartfelt mission to improve patient care, their in-house research and development team of PhD scientists and forward-thinking laboratory staff are continually innovating to provide the most advanced medical diagnostics available to improve patient lives. For more information about PMLS, please visit www.premedinc.com or call 866-387-2909.
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SOURCE Premier Medical Laboratory Services