Hyderabad

‘COVID norms must to keep new dangerous variants away’

Representational Image.   | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

People should continue wearing face masks and practice COVID appropriate behaviour of avoiding gatherings for a ‘long time’ to not give a chance for more virulent immune escape strains of SARS-CoV-2 to emerge, said director of Tata Institute for Genetics & Society (TIGS) and former director of CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Rakesh Mishra on Thursday.

“Looks like we have an upper hand over the virus in most parts of the country due to natural infection induced sero-positivity with vaccines also helping. We should continue to try as much as we can not to give a chance for new dangerous variants to come in. It is not just about the governments. The society too, should contribute as if we keep getting infected, vaccines may not respond,” he warned.

‘Respect nature’

Dr. Mishra was addressing scientists, students and others virtually during a webinar organised by TIGS on “Challenges & Advances in SARS-CoV-2 research”. He said none should forget the origin of the pandemic, even if the ‘very beginning’ is not clear. “If we are not going to respect wildlife, we are going to be in trouble. We should learn to respect nature and live with it,” he asserted.

The manner in which scientific institutions had collaborated ever since the pandemic broke out has been “tremendous and impactful” in terms of data, research and communication, he said, and pointed out that many had entered into the arena of diagnostics to validate kits and testing. “Scientists need to communicate with people. Vaccine hesitancy is the result of improper communication. If we can do that, politicians will follow suit understanding the public perception,” he affirmed.

“SARS-CoV-2 has about 3-4 mutations a month and there are about 32-35 Delta variants circulating. By keeping a continuous watch through genome sequencing, it is quite possible to warn policy makers about any major outbreak due to super-spreader events like markets, meetings or marriages,” said CSIR-Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology (IGIB) principal scientist Vinod Scaria.

In fact, the Delta variant spike, which caused such devastation during the second wave throughout the country, was first noticed in Amaravati and Yavatmal in Maharastra in October last year, he disclosed. Kerala’s high numbers could be due to ‘effective’ testing where asymptomatic cases are being detected and also because the susceptible population is high as it could halt the first wave, he explained.

University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) associate professor V. Arumugaswami said the chances of another pandemic whether vector-based or RNA-based was very high and it could be dengue, chikungunya or a more virulent form of Nipah. “It is a ticking time bomb and it is matter of when, as we go deep into forests and cause more pollution. Western nations and multinationals are now focusing on infectious diseases and India should be prepared by ensuring every university has BSL3 or even BSL-4 lab facilities,” he said.

Clinical tests like CT Scan, and other tests like CBNAAT and Trunat should be done rather than depending solely on RT-PCR since it was found to be having 60% efficiency in a community setting, said director and co-founder of Molecular Solutions Care Health Varsha Shridhar.

National Institute Of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences’ (NIMHANS) Chitra Pattabhiraman said that apart from challenges of genome sequencing in substantial numbers, data interpretation too, should be quick enough for policy makers to take action. Indian Institute of Science (IISc)’s Shahank Tripathi, National Centre for Biological Sciences’ (NCBS) Uma Ramakrishnan and TIGS A. Ramaiah also spoke.


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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 8:36:54 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/covid-norms-must-to-keep-new-dangerous-variants-away/article36499034.ece

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