The emergence of the Indian variant is a reminder of the importance of successfully detecting coronavirus mutations. In Switzerland, a research team is mapping them around the world to track their development in real time. RTS went to meet Emma Hoodcruff, a researcher who became a lead.
It’s a peculiar hunt that Emma Hodcroft practices in her apartment. For more than a year, this genetic epidemiologist has been stalking the Coronavirus around the world, at all times. His weapons? Genetics and Computer Coding.
“In fact, we are kind of investigators. We use the DNA of the virus to determine where it has spread and how it has changed. It’s like analyzing samples at a crime scene to find out what the virus is. It happened. We’re using the virus’s genetic material to see how the epidemic is progressing in real time.”
>> Also see the 7:30 PM report on the Indian variant:
More than 5,000 gene sequences per day
This 34-year-old Anglo-American helped develop theThis makes it possible to follow the evolution of the virus over time at a global level, or roughly: “We are working with the genetic sequences of the virus that colleagues have provided. But we have blind spots everywhere in the world where there is very little sequencing – after all,” regrets.
In total, the team she participates in gathers more than 5,000 daily Covid sequences from around the world. Sometimes the number can be as high as 20000. It is then necessary to verify, standardize, analyze and convert these sequences into visual data.
“I would like to see more international and regional support to allow for sequencing in a more homogeneous and fair way because even in Europe there are big disparities. Some countries are sequencing 20% of their cases, others barely 1%. In Switzerland, we are doing well, but we still have a picture. Somewhat imbalanced depending on the cantons. “
The risk is that signals of a change in the dynamics of the epidemic are missed or new variables emerge.
A very connected life
Emma Hodcroft is passionate. Between her work and internet conferences, even interviews, she communicates a lot on Twitter. She gives her opinion and comments on studies and explains or criticizes them so that a wide audience can access new knowledge about this virus that has changed our lives.
“De nouvelles recherches paraissent chaque jour. C’est fantastique du point de vue de la santé publique et de la science. Mais en tant que scientifique, réussir à suivre cela de son côté, c’est un sacré défi. Et une journée sans SeeIt feels risky to lose an important post. “Despite everything, she sometimes allows herself a few moments of relaxation, hiking, or reading.
For over 15 months, Emma Hodcroft has worked hard to contribute to improving knowledge and surveillance for SARS-Cov-2. And this is despite precarious working conditions. The researcher just got a one-year job in Bern, but in a few months already, she will have to worry again about the rest of her scientific career.
Adapting to the Web: Tristan Hertig