Delayed sequencing of the virus gene is thought to be the reason why it is difficult for India to detect and trace a new variant of nCoV.
Currently, India is the second largest outbreak in the world with nearly 15 million cases of Covid-19, nearly 179,000 people have died. On April 19 alone, the country recorded 261,500 new infections, a record number, with 1/6 people tested positive for nCoV. The skyrocketing number of new infections in the billion-dollar country has allowed the wide spread of the COV variants. Of these, it is worth noting that variant B.1.617 contains dual mutations E484Q and L452R, which are more likely to spread more easily and reduce vaccine efficacy.
According to the Covid-19 CG, a monitoring tool of the Broad Research Institute, USA, India ranked 85 out of 134 countries for the proportion of Covid-19 cases sequenced. Accordingly, only about 0.05% of all Indian cases have been genetically sequenced, behind Australia is 47.4%, UK is 7.7% and the US is 0.75%.
Gene sequencing is an essential tool in the fight against the epidemic. Countries that do not do this create a “blind spot”, enabling variations to grow and spread before they are discovered.
In March, the Indian Ministry of Health said that all three variants from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil with the easier infection are present in the country, along with the new variant B.1.617. The variant has spread to California, USA, according to Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, director of the Stanford University Clinical Virus Laboratory.
“We are struggling in the ambiguity. There are no data and discussions about genetic sequencing,” said Dr. Amir Ullah Khan, research director at the Indian Center for Policy Development and Practice. , said.
In India, sequencing of genes is performed by 10 laboratories. Dr. Anurag Agrawal, director of the Institute for Gene Research and Integrated Biology, said the facilities are capable of analyzing 25,000 to 30,000 gene samples per month. In the past, when the infection rate was low, they only processed 4,000 samples per month because this was enough to determine the dominant variant.
Mr Agrawal said India is working on genetic sequencing to identify dominant variation in the most affected regions. In the state of Punjab, the English variant is the most common. Meanwhile, in the state of Maharashtra, variant B.1.617 is dominant.
Government laboratories are planning to increase sequencing to provide timely warnings. “Gene sequencing needs to be done more at this point, as the situation gets worse,” added Mr Agrawal.
Some experts say the progress of genetic sequencing in India only helps detect the variant after it has infected so many people. According to Joel Sevinsky, founder of Theiagen Genomics, it takes at least 10% of viral infections to be genetically sequenced for a country to have enough information to determine variation when it begins to emerge.
In India, efforts to promote genetic sequencing run into some of the same problems as the Covid-19 test in 2020. Constraints include tight state control and the lack of regional participation. private. It is clear from the fact that the government laboratories are allowed to sequence genes regularly.
Many test facilities, which supplied positive nCoV samples to laboratories, were removed after authorities declared a pandemic victory last year, Dr. Khan said. According to him, the government has focused on the vaccination campaign, instead of identifying the virus variant, leading to the current wave of infections.
“We are making the same mistakes as in 2020. India is wasting a lot of time because of delayed genetic sequencing,” said Mr. Khan.
Dr Lalit Kant, former head of the Department of Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases of the Medical Research Council of India, said states must send 5% of the total number of samples of Covid-19 sufferers to the laboratory, but they didn’t give enough.
Dr. Agrawal argues that the main obstacle is the development of a network for rapid sampling from regions. Any delay means less timely information and affects public health decisions, he said. In addition, the lack of data on variants also impedes the vaccine’s efficacy evaluation.
Mai Dung (According to the Wall Street Journal)