Work at the Broad Institute now includes virus sending samples to help find and control a fast-spreading Covid-19 variant. (Photo: Broad Institute)

The Broad Institute of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge is helping the state Public Health Lab look for the unusually transmissible variant of the Covid-19 virus first found in Great Britain, as well as other variants, Broad Institute spokeswoman Karen Zusi and a state health department representative said Thursday. So far the U.K. variant hasn’t been found.

The state Public Health Lab has increased the number of positive Covid-19 test samples being genetically sequenced to identify variants, and is sending more samples to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “at their request,” said the state health department representative, who spoke on condition of not being named.

The U.K. variant is not believed to cause more serious disease, but it spreads more rapidly and has caused an explosion of cases in Britain. It has spread to at least 30 other countries and has now been found in Colorado, California, Connecticut, Florida, New York, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Scientists have said the United States does not sequence enough virus samples to find and control the variant. The CDC said this month that it wants states to send at least 10 samples biweekly to be sequenced.

The health department representative said masks, hand-washing, distancing, avoiding unnecessary travel and “the same measures that are effective in preventing transmission of Covid are also effective in preventing transmission of variant strains.”

The Broad Institute also analyzes samples for Cambridge’s Covid-19 testing program.

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