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Covid in India: Proper gene sequencing could've averted current crisis, says scientist

Web report/Mumbai
Filed on April 21, 2021
Photo: Reuters

The whole point of genome sequencing is to remain ahead of the curve, he said.


Failure to adequately conduct genome sequencing of the Indian-origin double mutant strain of coronavirus B.1.167, which was detected in India in October, could be the reason for the second Covid wave that has engulfed the country now.

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According to a report in Indian Express, genome sequencing crawled in India. “In the first six months, it had barely done a few hundred sequences, when countries like China, the UK and the US had done several thousand and submitted these in public global depositories for scientists across the world to study,” said the report.

The government set up the Indian SARS-CoV2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) to expedite the gene sequencing effort through a network of 10 laboratories only in January.

“The whole point of gene sequencing is to remain ahead of the curve, anticipate what new variants of the virus are likely to emerge, how they are likely to behave, and what can be done to contain their spread in the population,” the report quoted an unnamed scientist.

“More the sequences, greater is our information about them, and more effective our response can be. Unfortunately, India has been well behind the curve on this front. We have been reacting to the developments, instead of anticipating it.”

INSACOG was also given a mere Rs1.15 billion for a six-month period, but the money was not released till the last day of the fiscal, when just Rs800 million was allocated to it.

The scientist said that the case of the double mutant variant was a good example of how policy stumbled.

“It was detected way back. It was found again in November and December. By February, this variant was exploding, almost coinciding with the surge in Maharashtra. The discovery should have been acted upon immediately. But nothing happened. Now we are fire-fighting.”





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