The U.S. is scrambling to expand DNA mapping of coronavirus samples taken from patients to identify potentially deadlier mutations that are starting to spread around the country.
On Wednesday, the White House announced a scaled up push by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and by a U.S. Army biodefense institute. But the more significant action is on Capitol Hill, where a House bill headed for floor debate would provide $1.75 billion for genomic sequencing.
“I don’t think this is going to be a light switch; I think its going to be a dial,” CDC head Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters, as she described the effort.
The U.S. now maps only the genetic makeup of a minuscule fraction of positive virus samples, a situation some experts liken to flying blind. It means the true domestic spread of problematic mutations first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa remains a matter of guesswork.
Read more: Government rushes virus gene-mapping as mutations spread