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May 12, 2020

Keesler AFB lab and partners to sequence Covid-19 genome

The US Air Force (USAF) Genetics Center of Excellence at Keesler Air Force Base (AFB) and Defense Health Agency (DHA) have collaborated to aid the scientific research to sequence the SARS-CoV-2 genome responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The US Air Force (USAF) Genetics Center of Excellence at Keesler Air Force Base (AFB) and Defense Health Agency (DHA) have collaborated to aid the scientific research to sequence the SARS-CoV-2 genome responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Keesler AFB has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, academic institutions and DoD labs, including the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, US, to conduct the research.

Major Mauricio De Castro said: “If you know the genomic sequence, you can know what to target for treatment, medications, vaccines, etc.”

Across the world, researchers are working to decipher the genetic code of the virus to help develop a vaccine or effective treatment against the virus. To date, they have shared over 10,000 viral genome sequences of the novel coronavirus.

The lab is scheduled to conduct sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus obtained from positive cases. Data obtained will provide critical information and aid the research further.

Previously, researchers at the lab of Keesler AFB aided readiness efforts in testing for diverse genetic markers, including rare causes of sudden cardiac death and hereditary cancers.

De Castro added: “If you target parts of the virus that don’t change as much, you have a much better chance of coming up with an effective treatment or vaccine and so that’s where knowing the specific proteins, the sequence of the proteins and what they do and how they have changed, is important.

“Studying closely related coronaviruses that have caused epidemics in humans before, like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, in 2012, will aid pharmaceutical companies in more quickly developing effective vaccines.”

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