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Kerala, Maha’tra run genome tests for fear of Corona mutant strain

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Over 800 to 900 samples from five states including Maharashtra and Kerala, that have seen a surge in coronavirus cases in the recent days, have been sent for genome sequencing in the last one month, amid fear of the mutant strains of the virus said top sources in the Union Health Ministry. So far more than 6,000 samples have been run for genome sequencing in the country.

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Samples from Punjab and Bengaluru have also been sought for the genome sequencing, which a testing process to understand the complete genetics of an organism. Sources in the ministry have also alleged that these results will help to understand if new variants of coronavirus have a role in the resurgence of Covid cases in these parts of the country.

Meanwhile, the Centre has given an action plan to Maharashtra, Kerala, Goa, Andhra Pradesh and Chandigarh after the recent rise in Covid cases in these states. One of the measures that it has asked the states to take is regular monitoring of mutant strains through testing followed by genome sequencing as well as monitoring of emerging cluster of cases.

As per Dr Shekhar Mande, Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), “Five per cent is the target that we wish to achieve (for genome sequencing). Right now, preparations are on war-footing to get that five per cent going.”

A “micro-level monitoring” is being done in Kerala and Mumbai to find out if Covid clusters are being formed in new areas.

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Government officials, however, claims that India’s genome sequencing has been below the mark so far and that needs to change in the upcoming weeks.

“The country has set up ten surveillance sites or labs for genomic sequencing and certainly the progress has not been up to the mark. We were expected to sequence 5 per cent of the all the positive samples on a daily basis… There are two things – one is known mutants which have come from other countries into India. The other equally important aspect is whether any mutants are arising within the country,” Dr NK Arora, head of the operations research group of Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) Covid taskforce, told media.

Still the spread of the contagious UK variant hasn’t impacted India like Europe. India reported only 187 people infected with British variant. Meanwhile, South African strain of coronavirus has been detected in four people in India. It is to be mention that, Brazil and South Africa, where two of the new strains were first detected, have similar climatic conditions.

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