6 labs for sequencing of new Covid strain identified

Centre identifies six laboratories for genetic sequencing of new coronavirus strain

Presence of the new strain in India can be confirmed only through genetic sequencing

Representative image. Credit: PTI File Photo

As India looks for the presence of the mutant Covid-19 strain on its soil, the Centre on Wednesday identified half-a-dozen laboratories to carry out genetic sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 carried by people who returned from the UK in the last one month.

In Bengaluru, the sequencing will be conducted at the National Centre of Biological Sciences and Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine.

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The other five laboratories are Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, New Delhi; Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad; Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar; National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, Kalyani and National Institute of Virology, Pune. The laboratories may take 1-2 days to do the genome sequencing.

The details of these laboratories along with the contacts of the nodal officers were shared with the state governments at a review meeting in which measures to screen the passengers coming from the UK to India and found positive in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Goa, Punjab, Gujarat and Kerala were discussed. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan chaired the meeting.

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Following the emergence of the mutant strain in the UK, the Centre launched a mega exercise to track down every individual who had landed in India from the UK or after transiting through the UK in order to examine whether they would be carrying the new strain, which is 70% more transmissible.

The Standard Operating Procedure issued by the ministry on Tuesday was discussed in detail in the meeting. The states were advised to access the details of passengers and send the samples of those found positive to the laboratories identified for genome sequencing.