Scientific and medical researchers complain about lack of coronavirus information from Ministry of Health

What is known in Ecuador about the COVID-19 coronavirus? 

Critics say only what the Ministry of Health makes known in daily reports on the number of cases and people in isolation, and the general state of the internees. There is no scientific research on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 disease.

The criticism of the Ecuadorian Academy of Medicine and researchers is that the Ministry of Health does not provide transparent information and data is held tightly, preventing scientific studies, unlike what has happened in other countries in the region.

In Chile, which has 17 confirmed cases, researchers from the Department of Molecular Genetics and Viral Diseases of the Institute of Public Health (ISP) deciphered the genetic structure of the new coronavirus in less than a week, after their first infection was recorded last Tuesday.

According to the newspaper La Tercera, the ISP obtained the complete genome of the first four cases and identified that the virus corresponds to the same one registered in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, in December 2019. This information will be released to the scientific community through the Gisaid platform, which has already recorded 350 different genomes from 28 countries.

Something similar happened in Brazil. A group of researchers from the universities of Sao Paulo and Oxford (England) found the complete sequence of the virus. The discovery, which occurred less than 48 hours after the first case was recorded, allowed researchers to conclude that the virus in Brazil presented differences to that found in Wuhan.

What’s being done in Ecuador?

In Ecuador, the opposite is occurring. Scientists have requested information to conduct research but have not been able to obtain the data.

Meanwhile, neither the Ministry of Health nor the National Institute of Public Health Research (Inspi) have made public if there is any ongoing research or if they will collaborate with people outside the public sector, said Hugo Romo, President of the Ecuadorian Academy of Medicine. 

Therefore, based on the fact that there must be a regulation and guidelines from the State, César Paz y Miño, Director of the Center for Genetic and Genomic Research of the Equinoctial Technological University (UTE), said there should be more information, both for the scientific world as for citizens, taking into account that it is not sought to violate the confidentiality of people, but to obtain case data.

For what? To discover, for example, what strain of the virus arrived in the country, if it is similar to others, how was the initial and subsequent contact, and to make mathematical calculations of possible infections.

But, “in Ecuador nothing is known,” said Esteban Ortiz, a medical researcher specializing in public health at the University of the Americas. He said data on transmission dynamics, infection patterns, clusters of the new coronavirus are unknown. All these data could generate scientific information to make decisions. “The information is handled with secrecy. The research offers answers, but now they are just giving us doubts.”

Cooperation is sought

In the absence of research, Daniel Simancas believes that universities, with their laboratories, could collaborate jointly with the Ministry of Health. In addition, Paz y Miño said that if there is no infrastructure or knowledge in the country, it can be coordinated with other countries.

Extracted from La Hora