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Sequencing of genomes in samples to track mutantion in COVID-19 virus

The variant strain has 14 non-synonymous (amino acid altering) mutations, six synonymous (non amino-acid altering), and three deletions.

Published: 27th December 2020 09:06 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th December 2020 09:06 AM   |  A+A-

Representational picture of coronavirus (Photo | AP)

Representational picture of coronavirus (Photo | AP)

NEW DELHI:  Following the emergence of a new strain of SARS CoV 2 in the UK, the National Task Force on Covid-19 has recommended that 5% of all positive samples from every state be subjected to whole genome sequencing to track the mutations in the virus. Samples from over 50 travellers who have arrived in the country from the UK and have tested positive for Covid-19 are already being subjected to spike gene sequencing.

The task force under the chairmanship of V K Paul, member (health) in the Niti Aayog, met to discuss the evidence-based modifications in testing, treatment and surveillance strategies for coronavirus in the wake of the mutant, which is reportedly far more infectious. The variant strain has 14 non-synonymous (amino acid altering) mutations, six synonymous (non amino-acid altering), and three deletions.

Eight mutations are present in the spike (s) gene which carries the binding site of the ACE2 receptors, which are the point of entry of the virus into the human respiratory cells. It was emphasised in the meeting that since the UK variant was implicated to cause increased transmissibility of the virus, it was critical to identify individuals infected with this strain and adequately contain them to prevent its transmission in India. But the task force concluded that there was no need to change the existing treatment protocols in view of mutations emerging in the strain. 

The NTF also recommended that in addition to the existing surveillance strategies, it was critical to conduct enhanced genomic surveillance for SARS-CoV-2, especially among incoming passengers from the UK. “Besides, it will also be critical to conduct genome sequencing in samples where there is a dropout of the S gene in lab diagnosis, proven cases of re-infections,” the NTF said. “Routine genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 from representative samples all across the samples needs to be a continuous and well-planned activity.” 

Watch on UK flyers must
Adding to the existing surveillance, states have to conduct enhanced genomic surveillance, especially among UK flyers 



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