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Important to contain COVID-19 transmission to keep mutations down, says PGC chief

It is important to contain the transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to avoid further mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the illness, the executive director of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) said Tuesday.

“Mutations occur as part of the natural process of virus evolution. For us to keep mutations down, we have to keep the transmissions low kasi without a host, hindi talaga maka-mutate ang virus,” Dr. Cynthia Saloma said in a virtual briefing.

Saloma explained that the coronavirus mutates slower compared to other viruses but its variants and mutations are more widely known due to the pandemic.

“Ang daming researchers all over the world, dahil nga po pandemic ngayon, na nag-se-sequence kaya marami po tayong naririnig na news na mga variants, mutations,” she said.

The PGC’s genome sequencing of 1,945 samples found that 582 or 30% had the B.1.1.63 lineage or the Hong Kong variant.

The B.1.1.7 or United Kingdom variant was also detected in 44 cases in the Philippines. 

“The scientific consensus for now is that [for] the B.1.1.7, the vaccines that have been licensed to be deployed will remain effective,” Saloma said.

However, she added that the Brazil and South Africa variants, which have not yet been detected in the Philippines, may lead to lowered vaccine efficacy.

“That’s why it’s very important that the transmissibility or the transmission is contained para hindi na po makapag-mutate yung mga virus,” the PGC executive said.

“Vaccine designers are now designing booster vaccines or v2 of their vaccines in anticipation of new variants,” she added.

At the same briefing, the Department of Health reported that 40 of the 44 UK variant cases have recovered from COVID-19 while three cases remain active and one has died.

The Philippines has logged 550,860 infections with 511,755 recoveries and 11,517 deaths as of Monday afternoon.  — RSJ, GMA News