'No resources to sequence Covid-19 variant samples'

'Don't have resources to sequence 5% Covid-19 samples for South Africa, Brazil variants'

Bengaluru is the only city with two labs: NIMHANS and InStem, which is a part of the 10-lab Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium

He said that NIMHANS has paid from its own funds for sequencing 86 samples for the UK variant. Credit: iStock image.

A day after the union health ministry revealed five cases with the new variants of SARS-CoV-2 from South Africa and Brazil, Dr V Ravi, State Nodal Officer for genetic confirmation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, said they have no resources for sequencing 5% of the samples for Covid-19 variants in the state to trace them.

He said that NIMHANS has paid from its own funds for sequencing 86 samples for the UK variant. A meeting with the Department of Biotechnology is scheduled on February 25 where a proposal for funds will be submitted to the department.

Bengaluru is the only city with two labs: NIMHANS and InStem, which is a part of the 10-lab Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium.?

Dr Ravi told DH, "Currently, we do not have the resources to sequence five per cent samples for the new South Africa and Brazil variants. We need funding and a proposal has been drafted which will be submitted to the Department of Biotechnology in a meeting on February 25." Currently, it costs Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 25,000 to sequence a single specimen.?

"We will definitely have increased activity in these labs. The mandate of these labs is to detect any emergence of new variants of the virus in India. Suddenly, we're seeing clusters of cases. We need to investigate if this is due to a mutation in the virus or the emergence of a new variant. Once the system is functional in the next ten days with funding, five per cent of routine samples in the State will be taken up for genomic sequencing," he added.

"If some cluster events cross a critical point, then we will have a second wave. This is how a second wave occurs: a series of clusters build-up," he said.?

Bengaluru/Mangaluru samples being sequenced

He confirmed that NIMHANS had received samples on Tuesday evening from the Bengaluru nursing college cluster (where 40 students were found to be positive) and the Mangaluru nursing college cluster (where 49 nursing college students were found to be positive).?

"It will take five days for the results to come as it has to be compared with global sequences and checked if it is the new variant or not. So far we have sequenced 86 samples from international passengers and 25 had the UK variant but none of them had South Africa or Brazil variant. Three of these were primary contacts," he said.?

NIMHANS has uploaded 120 genomic sequences to the global database. Prior to that it had uploaded 100 sequences. "NIMHANS has uploaded 250 sequences. One can know what the circulating strains are based on these sequences," Dr Ravi said.

 
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