Delhi airport gets genome sequencing lab to check for new virus strain
The Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) on Thursday got its first genome sequencing laboratory, which will be used to test samples of all travellers who arrive in the country and test positive Covid-19 upon landing.
The samples will be sequenced to identify and check for a mutant variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus that was first detected in the United Kingdom in early December and is thought to be more contagious.
So far, since flights between India and the UK resumed on January 8, at least seven returnees from the counrty have tested positive at the Delhi airport after they underwent a mandatory RT-PCR test on their arrival. India had, on December 23, suspended all flights to and from the UK up to December 31 in order to stop the arrival of the new. This ban was later extended till January 7.
The portable testing laboratory has been set up near the multi-level car park at T3 by SpiceHealth, a health care firm that has tied up with Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), which is a constituent member of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) recently announced by the Union health ministry.
The laboratory was inaugurated by Dr VK Paul, member, NITI Aayog and chairman, National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC).
Dr Shekhar C Mande, director general of the CSIR, who was also present, said the launch of the genome-sequencing lab at the airports will be “a game-changer”. “I compliment SpiceHealth for being instrumental in introducing the dry swab direct RT-PCR testing developed by CSIR-CCMB, at SpiceHeath’s mobile labs,” he said.
Avani Singh, CEO, SpiceHealth, said early detection will be crucial to stop the spread of new mutant viruses from potentially entering the country. We are working relentlessly with a range of authorities while offering them all possible support to implement this on-ground, she said.