State laboratory works to identify new strains of COVID-19 through constant testing

CDPHE lab testing Covid-19 samples
Posted at 5:11 PM, Dec 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 20:42:16-05

DENVER — One year ago, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment laboratory was the first in the state to detect the alpha strain of COVID-19. Several months later, their work continues around the clock, identifying new strains of the virus and its impact on our state.

"It's very exciting for the team to know that they are impacting the lives of Colorado and immediately people are getting a COVID-19 result out of this laboratory," said laboratory director for CDPHE, Emily Travanty.

Travanty says they receive COVID-19 samples from nasal swabs taken across the state that they examine daily.

"Is there COVID-19 in a sample? If the answer is yes, we then move on to the next stage of actually characterizing the virus in the sample by doing the whole genome sequencing," said Travanty.

It's here where their work really begins. Samples from patients are placed into a long tray of tubes.

"We purify it out. We amplify it, and we look at each position within the coronavirus genome to understand the identity of the nucleotide at that position," she explained.

From there, about 90 samples are combined onto a small tray and placed into a large machine.

Finally, they end up with a reading they can analyze and be able to tell which type of variants are currently in Colorado. For now, no samples of omicron have been found in the state.

An important job this state lab hopes to continue in the weeks and months to come.

"I think it's very important for everyone to remember that no matter what variant is circulating, to take advantage of your own personal ability to get vaccinated, wear your mask and stay safe," said Travanty.