• Nitten Gokhaley

Explained: What’s genome sequencing? Should India seek help from the US to increase the same?

The study is critical to understand and identify which variants are spreading and where.

Scientists use the genomic sequencing procedure to decipher and read the genetic information found in the DNA of animals, plants, bacteria, viruses.

Genome sequencing gives scientists the intelligence to figure out where things are heading. The study is critical to understand and identify which variants are spreading and where. The US sequences roughly 2 to 3 percent of infections; the UK does 10 percent, while India is doing less than 1 percent.

Unfortunately, India doesn’t know which variants are spreading because the country is fighting with blind force. The health ministry initially failed to acknowledge the double mutant variant (B.1.617) as a threat in March. Now, the WHO has declared it as a variant of global concern.

Experts in the country have linked the B.1.617 variant to the catastrophic rise in cases. But the government’s response has not changed in any way. India still hasn’t labeled the variant a severe threat. And, lack of genome sequencing means the administration does not even know the areas affected the most due to B.1.617. The strain can evade some essential antibodies. Thus, more studies are essential to assess the level of protection offered by various vaccines.

Experts believe India needs to seek more help from the US

“There are certain companies capable of conducting genome sequencing in India. But, the scale needed at present requires outside help. Countries do help each other in moments of crisis. There are firms in the US and elsewhere that can happily send genome sequencers to India. But, the govt needs to request it; clearances need to be in place. The government should be proactive,” said Ashish Jha, Professor, and Dean at Rhode Island-based Brown University School of Public Health.

As reported by Nature India, dangerous variants can prove riskier due to ineffective therapies and rising infections. “Sequencing and rapidly controlling the contagion are the only options for taking the mutating virus head-on,” said Anurag Agarwal, the director for Delhi-based CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology.

Until recently, India’s coronavirus crisis was essentially limited to large cities, but now it is spreading in rural India that lacks even the basic medical facilities. On Tuesday, May 10, the country reported 330,000 infections and 3,500 deaths. On the vaccination front, India has vaccinated two percent of the population with both doses of vaccines.


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