Scotland’s SARS-CoV-2 whole genome sequencing (WGS) service, which provides critical information to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been increasing its capacity throughout the year.  It can now sequence up to 2,000 samples per week and capacity will increase again to 5,000 samples per week in early 2022.

WGS is a laboratory technique using state-of-the art technology to characterise the genetic material of a virus.  It allows for the detection and monitoring of SARS-CoV-2, the disease that causes COVID-19, as well as its variants and mutations. The WGS Service has been integral in identifying these in Scotland and helping to understand COVID-19 clusters, outbreaks and the overall movement and spread of the virus. Whilst WGS is currently focussed on COVID-19, the method can and, in future, will be applied to a wide range of human diseases.

The sequencing service is provided by partners across the NHS, as well as research centres in Scotland, and is led by Public Health Scotland (PHS).

Dr Nick Phin, Director of Public Health Science and Medical Director, PHS said:

“Whole Genome Sequencing is an important tool in helping to address some of the challenges posed by the pandemic and provides the capability to detect any changes in the virus. The identification of new strains, such as Omicron, allow us to analyse them to help understand the impact they may have on the effectiveness of vaccines and transmission of the virus to inform policy decisions around infection prevention and control measures.

“The upscale to this national service is a further step in reducing the risk from infectious diseases, and strengthening the public health capacity to manage outbreaks at both national and local levels. WGS is a key component to the world-class health system we’re all working to deliver for people in Scotland.”

Funding for WGS is provided by the Scottish Government and NHS National Services Scotland, as part of the Testing Strategy (external website), and is made possible by, NHS Lothian, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and the Centre for Virus Research in partnership with PHS.

Find out more about the SARS-CoV-2 sequencing service

Last updated: 06 October 2022