Nurse Melissa Valentin prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at Ashford Medical Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Ricardo Arduengo / AFP / Getty Images
PUERTO RICO – Scientists of the Ponce Health Sciences University Center for Scientific Research (PHSU) identified on the island the British strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
The strain identified by scientists from INNO Diagnostics and Research Centers in Minority Institutions (RCMI) of Ponce Research Institute It contains the 69-70 deletion, which is the one present in the variant that was recently detected in the UK, reported in written statements.
INNO Diagnostics is a reference laboratory in immunology and the first laboratory affiliated with an academic center to process molecular samples to detect the virus that causes COVID-19.
“From mid-December 2020 we began to analyze the results of molecular diagnostic tests to determine if we had samples of interest. In the laboratory we develop a test that allows us to confirm whether or not we have the variant among the stored samples. Since then, the group of scientists made up of the laboratory technicians Andrea Arias and Raphael Sánchez, the clinical director Dr. Gerardo Hernández, together with this server, began the research process until detecting the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus “, indicated Dr. Vanessa Rivera-Amill, scientific director of INNO Diagnostics.
Rivera-Amill explained that this variant detected for the first time on the island has implications for public health, as the literature reviewed establishes that these variants can spread more easily between people. However, he stressed that the identification of this variant is an important step for the scientific community of the country, since “it will help mitigate the impact of the spread in the communities.”
For her part, Dr. Kenira Thompson, president of the Ponce Research Institute and vice president of research at PHSU, reported that, once the identification of the variant was confirmed, she immediately contacted the Secretary of Health, Carlos Mellado. This medium tried to get a reaction from the Health Department, but at the time of publication of this story, it had not been received.
“We knew that it was probable that in Puerto Rico there were already variants of COVID-19. As scientists, our responsibility is to provide data that helps, not only for the development of other scientific tests, but also in the prevention strategies that are carried out in the country. We have a team of scientists with a high sense of commitment and dedication to the sciences that are made in Puerto Rico. Since the beginning of the management of the pandemic on the island, we have worked tirelessly to contribute, from the scientific field, in the identification of solutions that allow us to contribute to protecting the health and life of all, ”said Thompson.