PHILADELPHIA- The Health Department is proud to announce the Philadelphia Public Health Laboratory is offering severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) Whole Genome Sequencing. Whole genome sequencing is used to identify which variant of the Covid-19 virus a person has been infected with. Previously, Philadelphia health officials relied on private and academic labs to learn about which SARS-CoV-2 variants were circulating. Now, in operation since July 27, Philadelphia has its own facility positioned to identify any new and more evasive variants that may arise in the city faster than ever. In support of the City’s COVID-19 surveillance activities and variant lineage reporting, this state-of-the-art lab is currently capable of generating results with an approximate two-week turnaround time. Currently, this lab can process up to 96 results per week. In the near future the lab has the potential of managing up to 384 samples per week.

“The completion of this sequencing lab is truly a landmark accomplishment for the City of Philadelphia”, says Public Health Lab Laboratory Director Bernadette Matthis. “Few public health labs across the country are equipped with this technology. Our ability to expedite sequencing time will help keep our residents informed faster, keep them safer as the virus evolves going forward, and will help support the City’s surveillance activities.”

SARS-CoV-2 the cause of COVID-19 has shown that it is here to stay. Vaccines have played a critical role in protecting people from catching COVID-19. But as new variants like BA.5 have demonstrated an ability to evade the immunity given by vaccines it becomes more important than ever to know which variant people have been exposed to. The Health Department reminds Philadelphians that vaccines still provide protection against severe COVID-19 symptoms and hospitalization. The new SARS-CoV-2 Whole Genome Sequencing Technology will be an invaluable tool to identify these variants and to expedite treatments and diagnoses moving forward.

The Health Department is making Broll and sound bites available here.