Coronavirus information for Feinberg.

Skip to main content

Variants of Interest and of Concern with Judd Hultquist, PhD

Judd Hultquist, PhD, associate director of Feinberg's new Center for Pathogen Genomics and Microbial Evolution, shares insight on how his lab is tracking the origins of SARS-CoV-2 variants and also how antiviral proteins found in humans can protect against COVID-19 and other viruses.

 

Judd Hultquist, PhD

"We think some of these new variants of interest and variants of concern are originating from people with long COVID, who give the virus the opportunity to evolve and adapt to the immune system and then escape outside that person to cause a larger epidemic."

Judd Hultquist, PhD

Episode Notes

This spring, the World Health Organization began using the Greek alphabet to label key variants of SARS-CoV-2. There are currently four variants of concern — Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta — and five variants of interest — Eta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda and Mu. The Greek names make it easier to talk about variants with the public, but in the scientific community and in labs such as Judd Hultquist's these variants are being discussed and studied at the molecular level to learn as much as possible about their evolution, replication and mutation.

Topics covered:

  • Hultquist's lab shifted gears in spring 2020 to begin gathering samples from COVID-19 patients at Northwestern Medicine to conduct whole genome sequencing.
  • To date, his team has run sequencing on 2,500 independent isolates. Based on the mutations present in those isolates, they can assign it a designation to a specific variant, such as Delta.
  • Through the Robert J. Havey, MD Institute for Global Health, Hultquist's team is working with partners across equatorial Africa to do sequencing in several countries there, including Mali, Nigeria and Tanzania. They found in Nigeria more cases of a particular virus mutation set not seen elsewhere in the world, eventually leading to the new classification of the "Eta" variant.
  • Hultquist is investigating variants in patients with "long COVID" at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, who have been in the intensive care unit for an extended time. These are people who are immunosuppressed, who can't clear the virus, and so the virus continues to replicate, according to results of recent investigations.
  • Hultquist thinks some new variants of interest and variants of concern are originating from people with long COVID, who give the virus the opportunity to evolve and adapt to the immune system and then escape outside that person to cause a larger epidemic.

 Additional reading:

Subscribe to Feinberg School of Medicine podcasts here:

Apple Podcasts
Spotify
Google Play Music

Recorded Sept. 23, 2021

Continuing Medical Education Credit

Physicians who listen to this podcast may claim continuing medical education credit after listening to an episode of this program.

Target Audience

Academic/Research, Multiple specialties

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this activity, participants will be able to:

  1. Identify the research interests and initiatives of Feinberg faculty.
  2. Discuss new updates in clinical and translational research.
Accreditation Statement

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

Credit Designation Statement

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine designates this Enduring Material for a maximum of 0.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Disclosure Statement

Judd Hultquist, PhD, is a board member of Blue Cat Bio, Inc. and had contracted research with Gilead. Course director, Robert Rosa, MD, has nothing to disclose. Planning committee member, Erin Spain, has nothing to disclose. Feinberg School of Medicine's CME Leadership and Staff have nothing to disclose: Clara J. Schroedl, MD, Medical Director of CME, Sheryl Corey, Manager of CME, Allison McCollum, Senior Program Coordinator, Katie Daley, Senior Program Coordinator, and Rhea Alexis Banks, Administrative Assistant 2.

Claim your credit