Story by: Samoa Observer.

The Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (S.R.O.S.) says it is acquiring more “consumables” to enable it to determine the variant of positive COVID-19 cases detected at Samoa’s borders.

The Government-funded local scientific research entity released a press statement on Monday highlighting its capabilities, after the Samoa Observer reported on the approval by the Cabinet last Wednesday for the S.R.O.S. to assist the Ministry of Health (M.O.H.) run COVID-19 tests on the 300-plus people currently in managed isolation in its Sunday Samoan edition.

In the press release distributed on Monday, the S.R.O.S. management said they have qualified and certified scientists who have been trained in the field of molecular diagnostics and drug analysis.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic, SROS has acquired several RT-qPCR equipment with support from UNDP, UNICEF, FAO, IAEA and our Government,” reads the S.R.O.S. management statement. 

“RT-qPCR is a World Health Organisation recommended nucleic acid-base technique for molecular diagnostics of COVID-19. 

“This equipment utilises a molecular technique to amplify a target specific genetic sequence of interest. 

“RT-qPCR can amplify and detect a single copy of the specific genomic sequence.”

According to the S.R.O.S. management, this equipment enables their scientists to determine the presence or absence of the virus on top of providing preliminary determination of the variant.

“To determine which COVID-19 variant is in a sample with confidence, S.R.O.S. is acquiring further consumables that can be used with our present equipment,” added the statement issued by the research organisation. 

“This will remove the need to send samples to overseas countries for confirmation of the virus variants.”

The S.R.O.S. management said they have been utilising their equipment over the last two years, following global travel requirements that make it mandatory for COVID-19 test results.

“Given overseas travel requirements at present require a COVID-19 test results, S.R.O.S. has utilised its resources for about two years now to accommodate those in need of its services. 

“The traveler’s COVID-19 swabs collected by local medical clinics are delivered to SROS for analysis. To date, S.R.O.S. has tested more than 500 outgoing travelers.”

The capabilities of the M.O.H. to undertake COVID-19 tests was also highlighted by the S.R.O.S. management, which said: “M.O.H. has done an excellent job given the high-pressure conditions they are working under. 

“We applaud their excellent work. SROS molecular diagnostic services are available to support the MoH when the need arises.”

Among the equipment that the research organisation plans to acquire is one for genomic sequencing, which it says is integral in any COVID-19 response due to the threats posed by new variants.

“Genomic data has guided countries to make quick and informed public health decisions since the start of the pandemic, and Samoa would likewise benefit from having timely access to the genomic information of COVID-19 cases presenting in Samoa. 

“Most mutations don’t significantly alter a virus’ behaviour, but some can be concerning. Genomic sequencing involves decoding the genetic material of a virus to identify the mutations and determine what effect they might have on the virus’ pathogenicity. 

“This process is done in a laboratory and can be analysed within 24 hours.”

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