By Prashant Rangnekar
(Eds: PTI SPECIAL)
New Delhi, May 7 (PTI) Amidst concerns that coronavirus have undergone mutation and the new strain maybe more contagious, India's premier R&D organisation, CSIR, has submitted as many as 53 genome sequences of the virus to a global genome database, a move that may help in better understanding of the virus and developing a vaccine.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is also planning to submit additional 450 genome sequence data of coronavirus by May 15, its Director General Shekhar Mande told PTI.
CSIR's Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), Delhi, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad and Institute of Microbial Technology, Chandigarh are currently sequencing the genomes of the novel coronavirus, he said. Other CSIR institutes are also expected to join the process.
"We have so far submitted 53 genome sequences to the GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data). By May 15, we intend to submit additional 450 genome sequences," Mande said, adding all 53 have been sequenced by the scientists at the IGIB.
Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides. It helps in understanding how genes work together to direct the growth, development and maintenance of an organism.
IGIB Director Anurag Agarwal said in case of coronavirus, sequencing will help understand the origins of the virus.
For instance, if a virus emerges from a particular cluster, sequencing will make it easier to identify its origin later when it is found in some other part of the country or world. Plus, it will be helpful in making the vaccines and drugs for it, he added.
Earlier this week, a study by a US-based science laboratory has indicated that there is a new, highly-potent strain of coronavirus that has spread globally and is more contagious than the virus in early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Indian context, Mande said the sequences submitted to the GISAID by the CSIR deals with the coronavirus detected in Indians.
Launched in 2008, the GISAID, a public–private partnership between the German government and the nonprofit organization, promotes the rapid sharing of data from all influenza viruses and the coronavirus causing COVID-19.
This includes genetic sequence and related clinical and epidemiological data associated with human viruses, and geographical as well as species-specific data linked to avian and other animal viruses.
This enables researchers to understand how viruses evolve and spread during epidemics and pandemics.
According to GISAD, more than 16,000 genome sequences of the coronavirus have been shared with it by different institutes in the world which will enable rapid progress in the understanding of the new COVID-19 disease and in the research and development of medical countermeasures.
"Genomic resources obtained from this sequencing will also allow identification of new targets for diagnosis and drugs for COVID-19," Sanjeev Khosla, Director, IMTech had said when the process had begun.
Besides, CSIR, the National Institute of Virology, Pune under the Indian Council of Medical Research and Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre, a state sponsored institute, have also submitted genome sequences of coronavirus to the GISAID database. But the number of sequences submitted by CSIR is high.
The CSIR, a body under the Ministry of Science and Technology, has 38 laboratories dealing with a range of subjects.
Globally, more than 38 lakh people have been infected by coronavirus, and over 2.6 lakh people have died due to COVID-19, according to the World Health Organisation database. PTI PR PYK