Centre identifies 10 labs for monitoring genomic variations in Sars-CoV-2
The Centre has identified 10 advanced regional laboratories to serve as regional hub laboratories for genome sequencing as part of its surveillance strategy to monitor the genomic variations in the Sars-Cov-2 virus that causes coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The union health ministry’s guidance document on genomic sequencing released on Monday.
The ministry has also established Indian Sars-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) which will oversee the surveillance work on a regular basis and also assist in developing potential vaccines in future.
All the genomic sequencing data will be maintained in a national database at two sites, National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani (West Bengal), and Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi.
Apart from ascertaining the current status of the new variant of Sars-Cov-2 virus, the project also aims to establish sentinel surveillance for early detection of genomic variants with public health implications and to determine genomic variants in unusual events or trends such as super-spreader events.
While it is known and expected that viruses constantly mutate leading to the emergence of new variants, preliminary analysis based on epidemiological and mathematical models in the UK suggests that this variant is significantly more transmissible than previously circulating variants, with an estimated potential to increase the reproductive number (R0) by 0.4 or greater with an estimated increased transmissibility of up to 70%.
However, there is no experimental evidence or indication at this point of increased infection severity associated with the aforementioned new variant. Also, few cases with the new variant have to date been reported by Denmark, Netherlands and Australia.
Belgium has also reported the new UK variant of Sars-Cov-2, according to some unconfirmed reports.
“Also, very recent media reports revealed the emergence of a second variant in UK (contacts with travellers from South Africa) and a third variant in Nigeria, suggesting continuous virus evolution,” said the health ministry document.
“In case the UK variant or any other variant mutation is detected in any sample, it will be sent to any of the two notified Covid virus repositories at RCB, Faridabad or NIV, Pune for isolating and culturing. This can then be shared as per notified guidelines for development of assays, which will help in validation of diagnostics and also testing of the vaccines under development…,” it said.
National Centre for Disease Control’s nodal unit will maintain a database of all samples of the new variants of public health significance. The data will be epidemiologically analysed, interpreted and shared with states for investigation, contact tracing and planning response strategies.