Tampa General Hospital scientists studying COVID-19 variants

Posted at 5:16 PM, Apr 06, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — Florida continues to lead the nation in cases of COVID-19 variants. The CDC says that number is now more than 3,000.

In the struggle to survive, COVID-19 is evolving. The virus is working to hide from our immune system.

“They make changes so they can stave off the attack from the human beings," said Dr. Seetha Lakshmi.

Dr. Lakshmi is part of a team of researchers from Tampa General Hospital and USF Health. They are tracking down COVID-19 variants.

“We always have to stay one step ahead of the variants and that’s true for all infectious diseases in general,” she said.

CDC reports show Florida is by far the leading state in variant cases. Those include strains from the UK, Brazil and South Africa.

This is one of the only laboratories in the state where researchers take samples of the coronavirus and run sequencing tests to uncover the variants.

“I do believe that learning more with what we have here will be able to continue improving the care we have been offering since the beginning to our patients,” said Dr. Suzane Silbert.

Doctors say the vaccines are protecting people against severe cases caused by variants. But even with all the advances, the work here will allow the medical community to learn even more.

“That’s why this is important. This is why the work that’s been done by TGH/USF lab and the scientists is so important is that we need to learn about it,” said Lakshmi.

Doctors say with variant cases on the rise, people need to continue safety measures.

They are sharing what they discover with a global research network that helps medical communities around the world learn more about COVID-19 variants.