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Weekly Current Affairs: April week-2 - India’s national research laboratories to conduct testing for COVID-19

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    15th Apr, 2020

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) allowed all national research laboratories including those under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct testing for the novel coronavirus. Since the CSIR labs will now have access to virus samples, they will be in a position to sequence the genome too.

Context

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) allowed all national research laboratories including those under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct testing for the novel coronavirus. Since the CSIR labs will now have access to virus samples, they will be in a position to sequence the genome too.

About

  • Whole-genome sequencing is the method used to determine the complete DNA sequence of a specific organism’s genome.
  • The approach for sequencing the latest coronavirus involves getting samples from patients that are positive and sending these samples to a sequencing centre. 
  • The term ‘genome’ generally refers to the entire sequence of DNA of an organism, including all of its genes.
  • Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism. 

    How will they do it?

    • The research teams will sequence the whole genome of the virus isolates and analyze if there any differences in genetic codes. This will be key to tracking the source of new positive cases.
    • It is an RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus, whose genome consists of 30,000 base pairs (letters).
    • The current evidence shows the SARS-CoV2 has not shown any major mutation, which is a good sign as otherwise it could have significantly impacted vaccine development.

    Sharing of Genome sequencing:

    • In March this year, India became the fifth country in the world to sequence the genome of the novel Coronavirus, or Covid-19, and share its data with the international community.
    • As on April 7, India has shared nine whole genome sequences of the novel coronavirus(SARS-CoV-2) with the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID).
    • All the sequences have been shared by the Pune-based National Institute of Virology.
    • So far, 3,086 sequences of the virus isolated from humans have been shared by 57 countries.
    • With 621, the U.S. has shared the most number of sequences, followed by the U.K. (350), Belgium (253) and China (242).

    What is GISAID?

    • Launched in 2008, the GISAID Initiative promotes the international sharing of all influenza virus sequences, related clinical and epidemiological data associated with human viruses, and geographical as well as species-specific data associated with avian and other animal viruses.
    • It aims to help researchers understand how the viruses evolve, spread and potentially become pandemics.
    • The Initiative ensures that open access to data in GISAID is provided free-of-charge and to everyone, provided individuals identify themselves and agree to uphold the GISAID sharing mechanism governed through its Database Access Agreement. 

    Significance of this step:

    • Sequencing the genome of SARS-CoV-2 will help understand where the virus came from, if there are different strains circulating in India, and how the virus has spread.
    • It could open up potential treatment lines against the rapidly spreading Covid-19 in India.
    • The sequencing will also enable us to determine the route the virus took to India. That in turn will help us link lineages of patients in the country and respond accordingly.
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