Dominican Repúblic. June 02, 2020. In a joint effort led by the Institute of Tropical Medicine & Global Health at Universidad Iberoamericana-UNIBE, Dominican researchers together with the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Italy propose to sequence the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2).
The initiative is implemented with the Dr. Defilló National Laboratory, Reference Clinical Laboratory, COVID-19 National Emergency Commitee, and UNIBE. The objective is to know the genomic structure of SARS-CoV-2 and to be able to compare it with the existing sequences that have already been described in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Viral sequences are performed through virus RNA extraction, and next generation sequencing or NGS. The scientific exchange agreement was recently signed between UNIBE and ICGEB through the Dominican Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and its embassy in Italy.
Knowing the sequence of the circulating virus in the DR will allow us to know the molecular characteristic of the virus, its genetic modifications, and similarities or differences with other circulating viruses worldwide. Given the possibility of having a vaccine available against COVID-19, this information would serve to know its functionality, and if its implementation would be effective against existing viruses. To date, we do not know if there are mutations that can cause alterations in the immune response interactions in the Dominican population, therefore, before significant changes occur, we must know the current profile of the circulating virus. The DR would be one of the few countries in Latin America to be able to determine the genetic structure of the virus in its territory, along with Panama, Costa Rica, and Peru, who have already done so.
This initiative is led by Dr. Robert Paulino-Ramírez from UNIBE, Dr. Eileen Riego de Reference, and Lic. Lucia De la Cruz from Dr. Defilló National Laboratory in collaboration with the Molecular Virology laboratory at ICGEB Trieste, Italy, headed by Dr. Alessandro Marcello. This is an example of joint leadership between the Dominican Government, Academia and an IGO operating within the UN system, whose core business is science and the transfer of technology to Member States.