UNH Begins Genomic Surveillance of COVID in Support of State, CDC

March 8, 2021


Dear Members of the University Community —

Recently the university started genomic sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from samples submitted to the UNH Testing Lab and samples provided by the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). We are now able to provide data for use by the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in surveillance of the virus thanks to state and federal support of this important work.

While it does not change anything related to patient care, including recommendations for isolation and quarantine, genomic surveillance enables public health officials to monitor genetic variations occuring in the COVID virus and better understand how they are circulating and how they affect public health. Viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, are constantly changing and over time may have different characteristics. You can learn more about genomic surveillance here.

The first several hundred UNH samples to be sequenced, obtained earlier this semester, were completed last week. The UK variant (B.1.1.7) was detected in the samples of two members of the UNH Durham community. This was not unexpected as the UK variant was first detected in New Hampshire almost a month ago. Based on CDC guidance the university will not share any additional details, but patient information has been provided to DHHS for further action if necessary.

The university will continue to conduct genomic surveillance on positive test results out of the lab. Any additional variant findings will be reported by the state by county only; if additional variants are discovered or public health guidelines are adjusted we will work in partnership with the state to share the necessary information. In closing, we want to stress that this additional data is something to be celebrated, not feared. We are one of the few institutions in the country contributing in this way to help monitor community spread.

Paul Dean
Chief of Police /Associate VP for Public Safety and Risk Management and Co-Chair of UNH Testing and Tracing Committee

Marian McCord
Senior Vice Provost for Research, Economic Engagement and Outreach; and Co-Chair of UNH Testing and Tracing Committee