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On Dutch television a leading doctor spoke out of the "deplorable" state of healthcare and monitoring in South Africa causing the rise of variants. How very ugly and dumb can one be calling himself a "scientist" and earning bucks in his/her profession.

Omicron in South Africa: The Latest News | John Hopkins Review |

This variant was first recognized in South Africa. How did that happen?

GG: It was identified in an area near Johannesburg and Pretoria. A private laboratory that does PCR testing picked up on one of the tests an "S-gene target failure"--an anomaly in their testing strategy. This continued in several tests. They notified the virologists who do surveillance in our country and sent the samples for sequencing, [which revealed] a lot of mutations and deletions.

The new variant came as a surprise, and over a two-week period, we saw it rapidly become the predominant variant circulating in the Gauteng area. Initially, we thought it was a breakout amongst university students, but community transmission fueled the wave in South Africa.

What does this say about South Africa's capacity for identifying a signal and then being able to investigate?

CB: We are all deeply in the debt of the South African scientists and public health system for identifying this early. In pandemics, time really matters. There's been a long-standing collaborative investment-- principally around HIV, but also TB and other conditions--in laboratory infrastructure that has made South Africa a critical scientific partner in research and vaccine trials. Their ability to do molecular surveillance, pick up new variants of COVID, sequence them, and understand at a population level the emerging epidemiology, is critically important.

What have you learned since the identification? What kind of surveillance, monitoring, and understanding has resulted?

GG: The first time the virologists looked at the new variant, they were horrified [by] its mutations. There was concern about how this virus works against the vaccines that we have. The scientists raised the alarm to alert our country, our president, and minister of health that there was a new variant, and publicly shared this with WHO and the international community.

We have teams [conducting] hospital and genetic surveillance, teams monitoring vaccine effectiveness, and teams modeling the reproductive rate. We've all worked together to answer questions for South Africa and the global community. We've held regular meetings with the NIH to give them up-to-date information. We've rapidly worked to establish vaccine effectiveness, and whether to bring in boosters earlier and more frequently.

'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Thu Dec 23rd, 2021 at 09:52:31 AM EST

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