Genome surveillance for north east region begins

The newly-established Centre for Infectious Diseases at the CSIR-North East Institute of Science and Technology, Jorhat (NEIST), Assam, has been equipped with state-of-the art genome sequencing facility to lead the genome surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 for the country’s north east region.

“We have just started genome sequencing of 600 samples this month, and this will be increased to 1,000 next month. We have the capacity to take up 1,500 samples a month for real-time surveillance to understand the spread, transmission, fatality dynamics of COVID, response to vaccines and for identifying mutations,” said director Narahari Sastry.

“We are now receiving samples from all north east states; otherwise genome sequencing was being done in a sporadic manner. In fact, INSACOG or Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium database had only 0.71% samples sequenced from this region indicating under-representation and critical dearth of genome surveillance, The government included us in this critical exercise realising the possibility of a third wave,” he said, in an exclusive interaction.

The director hails from the city and has been associated with CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT) as senior scientist for many years before this assignment. NEIST is the lead lab from among the three in the north east in the current 28-lab INSACOG, the multi-agency network established for large scale genomic sequencing, analysis and for correlating epidemiological trends with genomic variants.

The other two north east labs are DBT-Institute of Bioresources and Sustainable Development in Imphal and ICMR-Regional Medical Reseach Centre, Dibrugarh. NEIST has also established an ICMR-authorised laboratory for SARS-CoV-2 diagnosis by RT-PCR with BSL-2+ facility with capacity to analyse 3,000 to 6,000 samples per day. Till now, it has conducted about 41,000 tests.

The north east states are Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Sikkim with the first four showing a high infection rate as they constitute 76.93% of the population, covering 48.80% of surface area.

“Strict surveillance is vital as the region shares 99% of boundary as international borders with Myanmar, China, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, and there is frequent movement of migratory groups from different parts of the country,” he explained.

CSIR-NEIST is also contributing to ‘Pan India Serological’ study program by CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrated Biology and in monitoring seroprevalence of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 under a longitudinal cohort from this region as part of the CSIR-Phenome India project, added the director.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 10:08:19 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/genome-surveillance-for-north-east-region-begins/article35430755.ece

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