Knowledge about virus variants just one of the ways genomics will aid in fighting diseases 

From AdventHealth

AdventHealth is beginning to sequence the genomes of a subset of COVID-19 cases to better understand variants present in the community and to understand if those results might change the evidence-based COVID care the hospital system provides to patients.  

Dr. Wes Walker

The process, in partnership with genomic testing company Helix, is in the early stages, said Dr. Wes Walker, director of AdventHealth’s genomics program, on today’s AdventHealth Morning Briefing. 

Over time, knowledge about the variants could help the hospital system prepare for treating infections and potentially help tailor treatments, he said.   

Variants, however, don’t change the most important evidence-based ways of preventing transmission of the virus: wearing a mask, frequent hand washing, social distancing and getting a vaccine when available. Preventing the spread of the virus stops new mutations from occurring.  

The number of patients with COVID-19 in AdventHealth’s Central Florida hospitals showed only a slight decline this week to about 330, reinforcing the need for the community to remain vigilant about preventing new infections with continued masking, social distancing and good hygiene practices.  

Sequencing COVID-19 cases is only one piece of the genomics work underway at AdventHealth, which is also working with a partner to rapidly sequence the genomes of critically ill newborns and last year launched a study called WholeMe. 

The study is recruiting participants from the community, who will receive a variety of ancestry and health information based on their own genome such as risk for heart disease or certain cancers.  

Rebecca Essner, Ph.D.

That information could allow patients and their doctors to catch diseases early or even prevent some diseases, said Rebecca Essner, Ph.D., a research scientist and principal investigator for WholeMe. 

WholeMe is free for participants. Go to WholeMeFlorida.com for more information.  

AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division encompasses more than 20 hospitals and ERs in the seven counties in and surrounding metro Orlando, including AdventHealth Apopka. The world-class hospitals, combined with a comprehensive outpatient care network, sees more than 3.4 million patient visits annually. AdventHealth also has an expansive research portfolio with more than 500 clinical trials in progress. The organization has a deep commitment to serving the community and has a local financial impact of more than $1 billion annually. AdventHealth and its employees are responsible for nearly 20 percent of Central Florida’s economy.

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