MANILA - A patient may be infected with 2 variants of COVID-19, the Department of Health said Wednesday, after researchers in Brazil recently confirmed what could be the world's first co-infection of coronavirus strains.
Speaking at a government-led virtual briefing, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the country's task force on COVID-19 variants raised such possibility but would need further study.
"Actually, weeks ago, when our task force on COVID-19 variants gathered, our experts have said there could be a probability that a person may have 2 variants," she said in a mix of Filipino and English. "However, we have yet to see that here from the tests we are conducting."
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To date, the Philippines has recorded the original strain and the B.1.1.7. SARS-CoV-2 variant, which emerged in the United Kingdom.
Health authorities have so far confirmed 17 people to have the UK variant: 1 in Quezon City; 12 in Bontoc, Mountain Province; 2 overseas Filipino workers who returned from Lebanon; 1 in La Trinidad, Benguet; and 1 in Calamba City, Laguna.
"We have yet to record another variant that is of public health significance or something that could affect the COVID-19 transmission in our country," Vergeire said.
The health official also assured the public they would be able to conduct genome sequencing of 750 samples this week.
Due to a global shortage in reagents, which are chemicals used in tests, Vergeire said the Philippine Genome Center was only able to conduct genome sequencing of 48 samples last week.
The agency earlier said it was requesting some P362 million to fund the country's genome sequencing efforts for the whole year.
The proposed budget will include a year's worth of supply of reagents, testing kits and other logistical requirements.
CO-INFECTION IN BRAZIL
Researchers in southern Brazil last week said they discovered patients infected with 2 different strains of the new coronavirus simultaneously.
The researchers, who posted their findings Jan. 27 on medical website medRxiv, said their study would be the first in the world to confirm co-infection with 2 strains of the coronavirus. The study has yet to be published in a scientific journal and has not been peer reviewed.
The patients, both in their 30s, were infected in late November with the P.2 variant of coronavirus identified in Rio, also known as the B.1.1.28 lineage, and simultaneously tested positive for a second variant of the virus.
Their symptoms were reportedly mild, with dry cough in one case, and coughing, sore throat and headache in the second. They did not require hospitalization.
New variants bring the risk of greater transmissibility and possible resistance to vaccines currently being developed.
- With a report from Reuters