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Genetic surveillance of Covid is need of the hour for India

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Dr Vishal Rao

Real-time surveillance system will help understand nature of virus transmission

By Dr Vishal Rao

BENGALURU:

We do not have any genetic surveillance system operational in India, but it is undoubtedly the need of the hour. Whole viral genome sequencing allows for better understanding of the virus transmission, including the knowledge of whether it is mutating and becoming a larger threat. In addition, genomics can help explain why people respond to Covid-19 in different ways, thereby helping us better protect those at greater risk.

There is hence an acute need for employing genomics to help public health bodies respond faster to emerging outbreaks.

UK initiative

Towards this end, COG-UK and the Sanger Institute have raised £12.2 million from the Testing Innovation Fund of the Department of Health and Social Care for creating a real-time surveillance system of emerging outbreaks.

This system will be supported by new software being developed by the Sanger Institute and involving researchers from across the consortium’s network.

Instead of relying on epidemiological exceedance, which “often requires a large number of cases to detect” outbreaks, genomics can help identify and respond to large clusters in an efficient and timely manner. For example, genome sequencing can show there are five identical SARS-CoV-2 viruses within one workplace on the same day, thereby suggesting the extent and severity of Covid-19 transmission happening in that workplace. If we didn’t have genomics we might know we had five cases, but we wouldn’t know if they were related and constituted an outbreak.

(Dr Vishal Rao is Associate Dean, Academics, HCG, and member of the state Covid task force)

Also Read: Bengaluru could have 6,500 daily Covid cases by April 20: Expert https://thebengalurulive.com/bengaluru-could-have-6500-daily-covid-cases-by-april-20-expert/

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