cebu city
IMAGE | Cebu City/Bombo Radyo Cebu

MANILA – The Department of Health and UP-Philippine Genome Center confirmed the detection of mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in some samples collected from Central Visayas, but stressed that it has yet to determine if the mutations can pose serious threat to the public.

“Following the enhanced genomic biosurveillance in the country, the Department of Health (DOH) and the University of the Philippines – Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) today confirm the detection of SARS-CoV-2 mutations of potential clinical significance in samples sequenced last week from Central Visayas,” the agencies said in a press release late Friday night.

“(The DOH and UP-PGC) however emphasize that current available data are insufficient to conclude that the mutations found in the local samples will have significant public health implications,” it added.

The DOH Regional Office 7 earlier announced that it detected “two mutations of concern” of the virus in several samples that were submitted for whole genome sequencing last week.

In a press briefing, officials said that 37 out of 50 samples that were sequenced tested positive to the “E484K” and “N501Y” variants.

“These two mutations of concern are actually of global concern also. Hindi siya atin lang talaga. This is of global concern because, apparently, these are the mutations that are related to increased transmissibility,” DOH-7 spokesperson Dr. Mary Jean Loreche said.

To allay concerns, the Health department reiterated that viruses naturally undergo mutation.

“These mutations accumulate over time and may have varying effects. However, not all mutations and variants necessarily cause negative effects.”

In order to minimize the risk of infection to the new variants, the DOH emphasized the importance of observance to minimum public health standards, as well as the implementation of strategies to detect, isolate, and treat cases.

It also directed the said regional office to submit additional samples for sequencing to “provide additional information to guide their ongoing COVID-19 response.”

The Philippines has recorded 44 cases of the more transmissible B.1.1.7, or more commonly known as the “UK variant” since January through continued biosurveillance.

There are 555,163 total number of coronavirus infections in the country as of Thursday, February 18. Around 512,375 had already recovered, while 11,673 died.