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Genetic Linkage

Genetic Clues in the Goop of a COVID Swab

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Sarah Marshall)

The components of certain things are meant to remain mysterious. The ingredients of sausage. A burger's slimy secret sauce. The recipe for Coke or Kentucky Fried Chicken.

 

Researchers from Stanford University are tackling the make-up of another entity, something rather new to our world: the stuff retrieved from swabs shoved up nostrils to sample genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. A swab actually samples much more than the virus's RNA, required for diagnosis.

 

Super Swabs

 

John Gorzynski and colleagues describe the "multi-omic data repositories" from deployed swabs in a preprint (not yet peer-reviewed) and at the recent virtual annual meeting of The American Society of Human Genetics.

"A single nasopharyngeal swab can reveal substantial host and viral genomic information in a high-throughput manner that will facilitate public health pandemic tracking and research into the mechanisms underlying virus-host interactions," they write.

 

That's a mouthful. I'll just call them super swabs.

 

Amplifying Viral Sequences

 

Extracting clues from the stuff on the swabs is a little like collecting evidence at a crime scene. Several things happen.

 

To continue reading, please go to my blog DNA Science at Public Library of Science, where this post first appeared.

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