Genome sequencing key to keep check on potent virus variants: CCMB Director

CCMB Director Rakesh Mishra at a press conference in the city on Thursday.  

CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD) are among the 10 scientific institutions across the country, chosen by the Central government, for genome sequencing of COVID samples secured from passengers at airports of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Karnataka, to monitor for new dangerous mutations coming to the country like the latest Brazilian strain.

“We have managed the situation well so far and of the 6,000 samples genome sequenced, we have found more than 7,000 variants of the virus but none of them are cause for any alarm. However, it does not mean a more dangerous mutated virus strain cannot arise as the virus keeps mutating, so we have to be on constant lookout,” said CCMB Director Rakesh Mishra on Thursday.

“We have made a start and hopefully, within the next few days, we will get work done more efficiently to ensure not a single variant escapes our notice even from remote corners of any panchayat. This is the only way of controlling any further spread of the new variants so that the particular area can be cordoned off with testing and tracing so keep it under control,” he explained.

Since the number of reinfections have been minimal thus far, it is a clear indication of the body’s immune system working towards the infection. And, both the vaccines available in the country have shown to be protective towards the UK and South Africa variants while the Brazilian variant is being investigated, he said.

With regard to the relatively low mortality rate and lesser hospitalisations across the country, compared to the western world, Dr. Mishra said the jury is still out on the reasons and research is going on various fronts on this ‘mystery’.

“Earlier, we thought it is our genetic base that has been saving us but the South Asian population in United Kingdom have not been spared. Therefore, it could be something else like may be our environment or our hygiene levels or may be a lesser virus strain similar to COVID-19 may have infected us before making our bodies more resilient,” he observed.

The scientific institutions, including CSIR and ICMR, are continuously tracking the infection rate and the virus transmission across the population with multiple research studies using latest technology. “Still, it is amazing we have vaccines in less than a year that I thought was not possible till a few months ago because of technological advances,” he added.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 1:17:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/genome-sequencing-key-to-keep-check-on-potent-virus-variants-ccmb-director/article33992432.ece

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