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Health Ministry asks States to hike genome sequencing for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus

  • Published
    21st Dec, 2022

Due to an increase in coronavirus cases reported in China, the United States and South Korea, India’s Health Ministry has asked States to bolster genome sequencing of coronavirus samples.

Details of the news:

  • According to media reports lifting of curbs in China, has resulted in a spurt in infections.
  • In response, the health ministry has asked states to gear up the whole-genome sequencing of positive case samples to track variants through Indian Sars Cov2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) network.

INSACOG was established in December 2020 as a joint initiative of the Union Health Ministry of Health and Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

  • It aims to expand the whole-genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 disease, across India with the aim of understanding how the virus spreads and evolves.
  • It functions under the Ministry of Science and Technology with the Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

What is whole genome sequencing (WGS)?

  • All organisms (bacteria, vegetable, and mammal) have a unique genetic code, or genome, that is composed of nucleotide bases (A, T, C, and G).
  • If you know the sequence of the bases in an organism, you have identified its unique DNA fingerprint, or pattern. Determining the order of bases is called sequencing.
  • Whole genome sequencing is a laboratory procedure that determines the order of bases in the genome of an organism in one process.
  • WGS of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been demonstrated to help differentiate hospital-acquired infection from community-acquired coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection.

What is genome sequencing?

  • Genome: It is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes.
  • Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism. In humans, a copy of the entire genome—more than 3 billion DNA base pairs—is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.
  • Genome sequencing: It is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts that make up an organism's DNA. The human genome is made up of over 3 billion of these genetic letters.

Sequencing the genome doesn't immediately lay open the genetic information of an entire species. Even with a rough draft of the human genome sequence in hand, much work remains to be done. Scientists still have to translate those strings of letters into an understanding of how the genome works.

Sequencing the genome of SARS-CoV-2 will help understand

  • Where the virus came from.
  • If there are different strains circulating in India.
  • How the virus has spread.

How does genome sequencing for Covid work?

  • It involves obtaining positive COVID-19 samples and generating a complete RNA sequence of that virus from that sample.
  • The complete viral genome (~30000 nucleotides) is extracted from the sample and sequenced, allowing us to read the genome of the virus.
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