PHOENIX - It can be seen as the introduction of 21st century public health. The "Arizona COVID-19 Genomics Union" is a group of biomedical experts from TGen Laboratories, Northern Arizona University (NAU) and University of Arizona (UArizona).
TGen has hundreds of positive COVID-19 samples, and researchers plan to create each sample's genome, dissect its genetic sequence, and input the data into supercomputers for analysis.
"Genomics allows us to go back in time and look at what was happening when things started really cooking and transmitting," said Dr. Michael Worobey with UArizona.
TGen's lab in Flagstaff has been helping state health officials conduct testing. Now, it’s taking apart the virus and studying its RNA, which is the DNA of a virus.
So far, scientists have identified a strain of COVID-19 that has caused a good chunk of infections in Arizona.
"It looks like it has its roots in the European outbreak, but there are also variants we can see in Utah and other states," said Dr. Worobey.
"What we're learning right now, models are telling somewhere 80-90% of the population are going to be infected or need to get vaccinated. There still is going to be a fair amount of disease," said Dr. David Engelthaler with TGen.
The goal is to share the research with Arizona officials and create specific polices to limit the spread, as well as creating anti-virals and vaccines for COVID-19.
Officials say according to the data, COVID-9 will level of and plateau in the summer, but will come back in a second wave during the fall. If a vaccine was developed quickly, within the year, there's a chance to drive coronavirus into extinction, but as time goes by, it's more likely COVID-19 will become a pathogen that shows up yearly, like the flu.
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