Local lab gets kit to sequence coronavirus genes

| 07/06/2021 | 54 Comments
One of the next generation sequencers that will be used to determine the SARS-CoV-2 strains

(CNS): Cayman has begun analysing the full genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, from tests taken from infected individuals. The Health Services Authority has acquired two next generation sequencers with the help of donations from R3 Cayman Foundation, the Caring for Life Foundation and an anonymous donor. These machines allow technicians to determine the various strains of the virus in people who are being tested and also provide information about the transmission of this coronavirus, determining the source and network.

While Cayman has been free of community transmission for over a year, there has been a steady number of cases among travellers each week. To date Cayman has recorded 591 cases.

Another four travellers tested positive for the coronavirus over the weekend, bringing the total of active cases to 14, but no one is suffering symptoms of the virus. Public health officials have been reluctant to give out information about where those testing positive are being infected or what strains are being identified. However, they will now be collecting significant detail on test results.

“Next generation sequencing is the gold standard for determining the genetic code of an organism and has revolutionised the life sciences industry,” said HSA molecular biologist Jonathan Smellie.

“It has also allowed the scientific community to quickly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling the rapid development of diagnostic tests and the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, as well as the identification of thousands of variations, some of which have become highly relevant due to their changed transmissibility and infectivity. The data generated from the NGS platforms will assist the Cayman Islands in determining whether outbreaks are linked to one another. This data will be uploaded to the global science database, GISAID – where we can visualise and monitor the emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 strains across the planet,” he added.

HSA Chief Executive Officer Lizzette Yearwood said the COVID findings will be shared with international research groups to better protect Cayman and the global community.

Officials explained that while the NGS technology provides an effective means of identifying coronavirus strains, it can also be employed for other applications. The technology has the ability to conduct various types of genetic testing services, including inherited disorder screening, cancer risk profiling and enhancing clinical microbiology. In addition, the technology opens the possibility for advanced forensic applications such as disaster victim identification, human identification and genetic genealogy.

Meanwhile, over 72% of the estimated population had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before the supplies of the Pfizer shots ran out. Public health officials confirmed that 46,928 people have had at least one shot and over 39,000, or 61% of the population, has had the full course. New supplies are expected next Wednesday, when the vaccine clinic will reopen and people waiting for second doses will be given priority.

See the vaccine schedule on the HSA website here.

For more information on vaccines contact the HSA Communications team at

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Category: Health, health and safety

Comments (54)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    8:01 had said:
    “…69 million individuals have vestibular and balance disorders…” and there’s absolutely no help to these people living hell on earth. Unless of course you are Mark Cuban who could afford treatment at Newport-Mesa Audiology Balance & Ear Institute.

    It took FDA nearly 10 years (‼️) to approve The Portable Neuromodulation Stimulator (PoNS™), rejection after rejection while thousands people continued to suffer.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It’s a moot point. Now that we have had our vaccine the mRNA is coursing through our bodies. The new virus checker will tell us what new variant has arrived on island so all we need is the awesome booster that contains the ‘update’ and we will be saved.

    I think it’s due in 6 months. Isn’t this fun…?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Here you go CNS re:ivermectin
    It’s 2 hours long, you don’t have to post this but I know you’re struggling with accepting that maybe all is not as it seems With global powers…alas

    CNS: OK, here’s the problem: I haven’t watched this video so I’m not going to link it, but there have been scores of self-described experts spreading nonsense, a multitude of conspiracy theories and anti-vaxxers taking intelligent discussion and running off with it to Crazy Town. Here’s a paper that seems to a non-scientist like me to be very interesting (but it’s a fairly long read). It makes the case for more study of ivermectin for treating covid.
    Global trends in clinical studies of ivermectin in COVID-19
    The recommendations against its use appears to be insufficient research.
    Here’s a brief summary:
    Ivermectin: why a potential COVID treatment isn’t recommended for use

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you CNS

    • Anonymous says:

      The same is true of Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin. Although anecdotal in the early days these safe and time tested drugs when used early and in the correct dosage were producing excellent results. The media, without doing any research at all quickly joined the bandwagon of (some) agenda driven scientists and told the public that the treatments were actually dangerous. Not dangerous for their use for 60 years prior.. What’s worse is this was long before we had a vaccine. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20210602/HydroxychloroquineAzithromycin-therapy-at-a-higher-dose-improved-survival-by-nearly-20025-in-ventilated-COVID-patients.aspx
      So many things have been misrepresented by the media the past few years and it’s sad because we’re supposed to depend on the media to challenge narratives, not push them and create manufactured consent. I’m not accusing CNS of this, at least CNS allows a robust debate in the comments.

    • Anonymous says:

      Insufficient research? It’s laughable how you’ll support vaccines that have nothing like nearly enough research into them. Actually no, it’s sadly depressing. Where is the independent media gone?

      Dear oh dear..

      Ivermectin is a cure, zero doubts. It’s just not patented. It also exists thereby denying the EUA legality of the vaccines.

      Life comes at us fast, here we are. The next few years are going to show just how poorly so many of us have been informed, or performed our roles. Sleep well all

      Anyway, Open the borders

      • Anonymous says:

        Idiot! Why don’t you go eat some oats if you are feeling like a horse if you wan to take Ivermectin which is used mainly for them

        • Anonymous says:

          Can’t take you seriously if you try to get your point across by insults.

        • Anonymous says:

          Indeed – my family was absolutely saved by Ivermectin – and they are medical doctors. 3 days of a mild symptoms. My parents were exposed at church eating next to a friend – Ivermectin was given and they never got sick. Like there is only one way to Rome.

          • Anonymous says:

            Ivermectin is plausible as a treatment and it does need some (urgent) trials, but unfortunately anecdotal ‘evidence’ such as yours doesn’t prove anything. …given and never got sick…or weren’t actually infected – without studies and trials there is no way of knowing, also 3 days of mild symptoms, also seen in people without Ivermectin. I am glad everyone is OK, but to be able to say that something works is a bit more involved. The best studies I’ve seen reduced the length of time in ICU by about 30%, but you are giving that to already sick patients and the study was very small.

            • Anonymous says:

              No. My sister and husband were sick with CV and they took Ivermectin and were well in 4 days. A 3 day cold-mild. I know of others as well – you don’t want to hear it-fine. Like I have said in previous posts – it has to start early to have an effect. My friends that waited suffered greatly. I take it that my parents took it and didn’t get infected (not a convincing trial) but my other family members were sick – tested positive- and took it. Again 3 days of a mild cold. Believe what you want.

        • Anonymous says:

          You’re thinking of ketamine, the horse tranquilliser, not ivermectin which is a malaria drug.

          Know your drugs better.

          • Anonymous says:

            It has more than one uses…copy and paste:
            “a compound used as an anthelmintic in veterinary medicine and as a treatment for river blindness”…river blindness is cause by parasites. They are looking into its effectiveness against malaria as it kills mosquitos that bite someone (or thing) that has Ivermectin in their blood.

    • Anonymous says:

      CNS, we’re not anti-vaxxers, we are against covid “vaxx”.

  4. I note with some distress as a qualified science teacher the comments that have been made on this forum. The data that have been assembled about the effectiveness of Ivermectin to prevent covid-19 deaths in a variety of meta-analyses make it clear that there is now no excuse whatever for preventing its use by means of what amounts to a medico-authoritarian fiat from a central authority. The data show that this remarkable and safe drug can and should be administered in order to essentially quell the whole pandemic. We shall look back on this moment of history and see that we were terribly and tragically misled by those who had motives that conflicted with the remarkably opportunity that has been presented to us. May we now work and advocate hard to “take the path less travelled”.

    • Anonymous says:

      Tell us more about the Big Bang Theory.

      • Anonymous says:

        It is just that, a theory.
        According to science an effect must have a cause. The universe could not have existed without a cause.

        • Anonymous says:

          You seem quite OK with the fact that there was no cause for God to exist, but you now need a cause for the universe to exist? Wouldn’t it be easier to cut out the middle man and believe that the universe exists without a cause?

          • Anonymous says:

            The physical universe was manifested as a closed system out of the spirit realm.
            Just look at the double slit experiment for atomic particles.
            It is a scientific fact that the universe knows it is being observed. Not one quantum physicist has been able to explain why.
            They have however decided that another factor must exist which is dangerously close to admitting to extra-terrestrial intelligence, that factor is “consciousness”.
            Instead of shunting our children into counting other peoples’ money and other mindless, parasitic jobs, perhaps we should encourage more of them to become real scientists?
            Just go and read up on it. The information is out there. It’s pure laziness not to be curious about our universe.

            Here is a great presentation from the atheist scientist Jim Khalil.

            The Royal Institute.
            “If you can explain this using common sense and logic, do let me know, because there is a Nobel Prize for you..”

            • Anonymous says:

              It’s still back to the same argument that your particular God must exists because we can’t explain X or Y. The latest theories on the start of the universe are that it wasn’t a single big bang but more of an expansion and contraction that has no start or end, which I can better understand. If we roll back a few thousand years God was behind thunder and lightening, we now know different, I see our current understanding of the universe as nothing more than that, just a temporary point in time where our knowledge is limited. I don’t believe that we should say, ‘that’s it’, I know enough about the universe so we can stop thinking and attribute everything we don’t understand to a God. That to me is lazy.

    • Anonymous says:

      you are 100% correct and just today Malaysian Govt are initiating trials on it (although there are already nearly 30 RCT’s on ivermectin)

      It’s hard for so many to believe/accept (including the media) that there is infact cures and therapeutics out there..it may NOT be a preventative per se, but that is irrelevant when we now know and have known for over a year that the tiny minority of the world can get sick from this severely.

      It is so strange that we are all accepting what is happening. The vaccination roll out is entirely unnecessary and clearly runs massive risks (hey, they may turn out to be fine…unlikely, but they might)…but to NOT let the drugs go thru years of trials WHEN WE HAVE A CURE in existence? its all about money. Simple.

      Ivermectin has no patent because its so old, and free to produce to anyone capable.

      If i was in charge, i’d pay off the Big Pharma to get them out of the way and let them properly test the vax’s if they wish…they’re redundant for all intents and purposes. Instead, our freedoms are being trashed and people are injecting themsleves and now their kids for little to no reason…with massive potential risks to come including known immune deficiencies from the mRNA vax’s.

      But back on point, yes, ivermectin exists and works. But US/UK gov’s and others are refusing to acknowledge it, however many within their own gov/science communities are coming round to being brave enough to say enough is enough.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I might be wrong but the only real need for knowing what strain those in quarantine have is so that the UK put us on their green list. It was one of only two requirements they had – low infection rates (nil) and an ability to know what strains we have, which is pointless (see first answer). Whoever set the requirements didn’t factor in any country not having Covid in the community! Being able to travel without having to quarantine twice is very useful.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed. Even more useful not to have to quarantine at all if you’ve been vaccinated. But that would require no plan Panton to make a decision. Instead he’ll just complain about Cayman not being put on the UKs green list and do nothing.

  6. Anonymous says:

    It’s irrelevant what variant is here. All viruses mutate. Infact if you vaccinate during a pandemic you make the virus work harder to find a host and it mutates because you’re vaccinating! Odd but true that’s why here immunity advocates were so vocal and still are, begging governments to simple vax the known vulnerables to avoid potential unforeseen consequences (though in reality foreseen by some) of making the virus worse and reducing the vaccinated persons immunity to it. This is a real risk

    As to the vax, it’s not 95% against any variant

    The 95% efficacy relates to your individual a relative risk reduction. This in itself depends on how vulnerable you are

    We’ve known since Feb 2020 who the vulnerable are (old/ill/diabetic) and statistically nobody else

    The vast majority taking vaccines are actually not shielding themselves any ire than those not taking them. It’s true. The Absolute Risk Reduction is less than 1%

    Effectively no benefit but doesn’t mean you don’t take it if you think it’s ok and researched well. Just don’t buy it based on 95% unless you’re vulnerable.

    Gene sequencing? Woopidy doo

    Open the darn borders. The unvaxd want them open too

    • Anonymous says:

      did you mean herd immunity advocates? Maybe slow down on the typing. But yep, interesting points and agree – open the borders please, even the non-vaccinated want them open as long as the vulnerables are shielded.
      It’s time.

      • SSM345 says:

        Major problem with “vulnerables” being unvaccinated; there’s at least 10 in my office alone who way 280lbs+ and eat BK 4 / 5 days and not a lick of exercise that are trusting in the Lord to protect them over the vaccine……

        Lockdown is coming as soon as we open back up because of people like this.

        Same ones with garbage health insurance that will be refuse treatment by their providers because they chose not to get vaccinated.

        • Anonymous says:


        • Anonymous says:

          Ivermectin will most likely solve their illness should the succumb – but frankly they’d be in trouble with the flu or even walking up the stairs. 280!?!?

          As to ivermectin, it exists an works, see India, and many South American countries.
          for some reason we’re not been pushed it like we are the vaccines which is odd when we could use ivermectin for now and let the vaccines be properly monitored/tested for a few years.

          CNS: See Ivermectin for COVID-19: Is India overusing

          FDA: Why You Should Not Use Ivermectin to Treat or Prevent COVID-19

          And https://www.livemint.com/news/india/govt-removes-ivermectin-other-popular-drugs-from-covid-19-treatment-list-check-revised-guidelines-11623074154396.html

          Quote: While WHO has been warning against used of ivermectin, Indian scientists have also come in favour of the removal of the drugs. “I hope this will put an end to irrational overtreatment, and focus on what we know helps–ventilation, supportive therapy, steroids, tocilizumab etc at the right time in the right patients. All other drugs should be used only in the context of a clinical trial, if there is potential utility,” said Dr Gagandeep Kang, the vice chair, Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a global non-profit aiding vaccine development platform for the covid-19 pandemic, and professor at the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, Tamil Nadu.

          • Anonymous says:

            Thank you CNS..The anti-vaxxers won’t take the vaccine but will take Invermectin, a drug used to kill parasites in horses..

            You can’t make the shit up..

            Don’t take the vaccine if you don’t want to, it’s your choice, but for crying out loud please stop the Trump-like foolishness of telling people to take drugs of this type.

            They might as well follow the orange idiot and inject themselves with bleach if they are going to take this..

            CNS: And yet, there is a good case for further study of ivermectin. See Global trends in clinical studies of ivermectin in COVID-19.
            And this (I confess I skipped to the conclusion).
            The problem is separating real discussion from the anti-vax nonsense. In the meantime, we have the vaccine that is proven to work.

            • Anonymous says:

              For a wet orange idiot, he was on the money when it came to Hydroxy, Ivermectin and others

              You alas cant accept that you may be swallowing 18 months of hyperbole and goine blind

              At least CNS just acknowledged that there is a case for ivermectin (there’s far more than just a case for it btw and it’s coming out each day)

              You do know everything that’s in the vax right? Killing parasites is mild.

              it’s not anti-vax to say there exists a cure and therefore untested vaccines shouldn’t be rolled out until they’ve got years of research. that is not anti-vax, thats being sensible.

              Anyway, to each his own

          • Anonymous says:

            Drug companies don’t want to see a cheap drug threaten their pocket book.
            My family has been treated with Ivermectin to the actual virus and for exposure with absolutely great success. The secret to it is that it must be started immediately after exposure or as soon as symptoms appear. Starting on it late doesn’t have the same effect – several of my close friends waited and suffered greatly.
            And the family members that caught Corona – used Ivermectin – they are medical doctors. They were only mildly sick for 3 days – less than the regular cold.
            Other doctors I know will write you a prescription – just do it before you get tested as “it isn’t approved by the FDA”. They just know that it works.

          • Anonymous says:

            CNS, do you know about existence of medicine with “black box warning” that basically means: take it at your own risk, but you may die or get severely injured. Fully authorized “black box” medicine is being widely used. Doctors don’t even warn patients about risks, prescribing it without hesitation.

            Acetaminophen, or Tylenol, is so toxic for liver, it would not get approval today. But it was approved many years ago and it is OTC medicine.

        • Anonymous says:

          Yes and they will depend on the government to take care of them because the insurances companies won’t..the irony is it is the same government that offered them the vaccine for free.

        • Anonymous says:

          Lol..you should have told all those people that they were giving away free whoppers. Better they eat two of those free now and get the vaccine so that our hospital expenses for them later on may be lessened.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Good to see that this machine is finally in use, as it had been sitting idle at HSA for at LEAST 6 months now while the pandemic raged all around us.

    Put it to it’s intended use, and let the public know which variants of concern are here on the island with us, NOW!

    • Anonymous says:

      There are no cases of any strain in the Cayman Islands community and 100% of inbound positives are imported cases serving quarantine until clinical resolution. Cayman should start ascribing the inbound nationality of origin to these cases so that those numbers can be properly added to those other national totals and not to ours. Do it confidentially if that’s the preference, but let’s not shoot our own feet by pretending we have local cases milling around the community. Thanks.

      • Anonymous says:

        Cayman should only be officially counting Caymanian citizen cases. The other cases belonging to foreign nationals should be reported and catalogued to those country’s embassies and added to their own “international traveler” totals. We shouldn’t be counting them twice even if we still have to pay for them. We should also seek reimbursement from those governments for their citizens’ costs, including two weeks of beachfront catered quarantine hotel.

      • Bones says:

        How do you know that, does your mind sequence all incoming travellers that test positive? Wow your so smart, wish my mind could do that too🙄

        • Anonymous says:

          Exactly, it’s comforting to hear that there are no VoC on the island, but we really don’t know that.

          Up until very recently they weren’t being tested for it, locally. “Yes – “some” samples were being sent to Trinidad, with results coming back several weeks later, but that’s hardly the same thing.

          Meanwhile a recently returning traveler who is incubating any number of the VoCs could very well have been “isolating” at home next door to you, and not only would both of you not know that, you wouldn’t even know they were quarantining, unless they decided to tell you.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The $16 Trillion Virus

    The total cost is estimated at more than $16 trillion, or approximately 90% of the annual gross domestic product of the US.

    What if tropical diseases had as much attention as COVID? A child dies from malaria every 2 minutes. For survivors, such infectious diseases lock in a vicious cycle.

    What if cancer had as much attention as COVID? More than 1,600 deaths each day. ( “Cancer Statistics, 2020,” published in the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.) In 2018, an estimated 9.5 million people died of cancer worldwide.

    What if neurological and CVD had as much attention as COVID? Over 13 million people will have a stroke each year and around 5.5 million people will die as a result. One hundred million persons have chronic pain, 70 million people experience sleep/wakefulness problems, and 69 million individuals have vestibular and balance disorders; altogether, these cases constitute 54% of occurrences of the top 10 neurologic diseases. Hearing impairment affects 48 million individuals, or 20% of Americans. The prevalence of migraines is 28 million. Chronic tinnitus, substance-abuse disorders, blindness, and visual impairment affect 20 million adults each.https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/incidence-and-prevalence-of-major-neurologic-disorders

    Have the world gone bonkers with COVID?

    Does Cayman, with its 60,00 population really needs to spend time and resources sequencing coronavirus genes when it doesn’t even have cancer and other major diseases registry/statistics?

  9. Anonymous says:

    When does the chip reader arrive?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Various strands my a$$…overkill… while we still can’t cure cancer.

    How many billions were spent worldwide on Covid19 which has 99.98% survival rate?

    Enough! Time to move on.

    • Anonymous says:

      feel free to move to Jamaica or Miami if you don’t like the way Cayman is dealing with it.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It is good news that sequencing is now available, but it is very unfortunate that Public Health has chosen the continue with the ‘industrial mushroom growing’ approach to communicating to the public which strains are coming in and from. So much for transparency.

  12. Anonymous says:

    This is great news! Very proud to see Caymanian, Mr Jonathan Smellie, the Molecular Biologist leading the way with genome sequencing in the Cayman Islands!! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

    • Anonymous says:

      Someone shouts out a young Caymanian who has kept a level head and is applying his knowledge and skills to advance scientific research in the Cayman Islands and over a dozen people give it a thumb down. Is this not so telling about where we are as a society?

      • Anonymous says:

        I replied to this yesterday – but the comment still hasn’t been published – CNS – are you trying to push a narrative?

        CNS: The comment was bitchy about a particular person for silly reasons.

        • Anonymous says:

          The comment was explaining why there were over a dozen people giving a thumbs down. Of course, if you disagree with it, it doesn’t get published. Appreciate you verifying that the illusion of free speech is exactly that in this lovely society. As the OP said – telling.

          CNS: No, that’s not what you were doing and I didn’t delete your comment because I disagreed with it. You were unfairly being bitchy about a particular person while hiding behind your anonymity. Instead of whining, just be nice.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Oh good. So we can see what kind of Covid didn’t kill anyone here. What is our total of positive cases to deaths?

    • Anonymous says:

      People like you really need to read before you put your mouth in gear..

      This is used not to find out who died from covid but to detect the variants which could be very beneficial to us and other countries to know where these are coming from and if picked up and is something like the Indian variant that person may need to be cared for in a different manner.

  14. Anonymous says:

    👏👏 congratulations HSA

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