Mercer University working to track Covid-19 variants thanks to grant

As we move into the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers are still learning more about the virus.
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Mercer University receives grant to help track Covid-19 Variants
Covid-19 Variants

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) — As we move into the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, researchers are still learning more about the virus.

Mercer University School of Medicine is expanding its knowledge on Covid-19. The school, in partnership with the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Louisiana State University Health Shreveport, was recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The money will help to guide Covid-19 research about possible variants of the virus.

Dr. Rob McKallip, the Biomedical Sciences Chair with Mercer Medicine, says learning about the different types of variants is important.

“Do we have the delta variant? Or do we have the new Omicron? Or do we have something that’s completely different?” he said. “And that will help the community to deal with whatever they have, because if it’s a new variant that’s more worse, we’ll know that’s coming, and we’ll know how to deal with it.”

The grant money will help the university track Covid-19 variants across the state.

“Mercer Medicine currently tests patients for whether or not they have Covid-19,” McKallip said. “If positive, we collect them, then send them off to LSU Health. The university will actually do the sequencing for us. Once we get that report, we upload them to a public data base.”

Mercer doctors say their goal is to learn how to attack new variants. They also want to see how different communities are impacted by different variants.

Gretchen Bentz, an associate professor with Mercer’s School of Medicine and also a mother, says being able to identify new different variants will help parents be more informed.

“As we’re seeing a huge uptick right now in the Omicron variant, we know it’s so much more transmissible, we know to be more vigilant,” she said. “With my children, I can ensure they wear their mask in school and make sure they’re vaccinated.”

Mercer University says its next goal is to create a facility on campus that can help in the sequencing process.

Categories: Bibb County, COVID-19, Featured, Local News, WMGT

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