Coronavirus | COVID-19 may become endemic to humans, say CSIR scientists

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The way ahead in keeping track of the novel coronavirus is through “aggressive testing, genome sequencing, monitoring and surveillance” as these actions will “provide long-term gains in terms of preparedness for future outbreaks as well as networks and infrastructure to handle them”, affirmed top scientists of the CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB).

This is because the rate of zoonotic viral transmission (from animals to people) is accelerating due to the unprecedented increase in humanity’s global footprint. “Every country needs to strategise on reducing possibilities of emerging infectious diseases and have reliable surveillance and management mechanisms in the case of their occurrence,” emphasised CCMB director Rakesh Mishra and his colleagues Somdatta Karak and Surabhi Srivastava in an online post.

The scientists pointed out that COVID-19 pandemic could be a long-term crisis and is likely becoming endemic to humans. Hence, the country cannot afford to follow a “blinkered strategy” in dealing with the pandemic, and it is important to ramp up capacity in multiple spheres of healthcare and R&D.

Countries across the globe have achieved relative success in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic by meticulously following “testing, tracing and efficiently isolating the positive cases to keep the disease spread under control”, they reiterated. Noting that the country is ranked third in the world based on the number of confirmed cases after United States and Brazil, they suggest the mitigation strategies must consider the heterogeneous nature of the population, the economic and urban versus rural divide, and the weak healthcare infrastructure.

It was also disclosed that work is under way at CSIR-CCMB and other institutions to develop antigen-based and antibody-based diagnostic assays and check for their specificity. These tests will be easy to carry out, familiar to healthcare workers, cheap and easy to scale, making them ideal for mass surveillance.

Initially, it was A3i clade of the coronavirus which was the dominant variant in the country and later, the globally prevalent A2a subtype became predominant as the pandemic swept across the country. Global repository ‘Nextstrain’ has over 90,000 genome submissions of coronavirus categorised into 10 known viral variants based on their genomic differences from each other, they explained.

    The rate of mutation in India has been observed at 26 times per year matching the global mutation rate and suggesting the virus will remain stable. Studies are now on to check for differences in human host genomes to explain the spectrum of COVID-19 manifestation – from asymptomatic cases to fatalities, the scientists added.

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    Printable version | Apr 11, 2021 1:18:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/coronavirus-covid-19-may-become-endemic-to-humans-say-csir-scientists/article32998473.ece

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