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CSIR lab to start genome sequencing of coronavirus

Image credit: Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology

The Institute of Genomics and Integrated Biology (IGIB), an institute under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has started whole-genome sequencing of coronavirus.

According to a press release, the Chandigarh-based Institute of Microbial Technology (IMTech) has taken up the task of large-scale genome sequencing of the virus.

Viruses have a higher mutation rate compared to that of microbes and their genetic material keeps on changing quickly as they replicate rapidly.

These genome sequencing samples will be submitted to the international recognised repository, said Dr Sanjeev Khosla, Director, IMTech. The complete genome sequence information will enable researchers to gain insights about the origins of the virus, the different types of strains circulating in India and how it has spread across the length and breadth of our country.

The genomic resource obtained from this sequencing will also allow for the identification of new targets for diagnosis and drugs for COVID-19.

Whole-genome sequencing is a method used to determine the complete DNA sequence of a specific organism’s genome. As the Institute is known for its specialisation in microbial and genomic research, CSIR-IMTech will perform sequencing of the SARS-Cov-2 RNA genome isolated from clinical samples.

So far, 9000 samples have been sequenced internationally as per the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) — a public platform started by the WHO in 2008 for countries to share genome sequences. The genomic resource obtained from this sequencing will also allow the identification of new targets of diagnosis and drugs for COVID-19.

The CSIR-IMTech Director noted that the organisations already started the clinical testing of samples and now by embarking on this mission to sequence viral strains, will be better equipped to understand the nature of this virus, which has caused a global pandemic.

CSIR-IMTech will be using its experience in portable, real-time, and direct genome sequencing to study the chemical modification in SARS-Cov-2 strains from India.

IGIB is the second institute to start whole-genome sequencing the virus. As OpenGov reported earlier, the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), based in Hyderabad, is performing next-generation sequencing and analysis to map out the whole genome sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.0

The patient samples with CCMB that show a high viral load are chosen for the genome analyses. CCMB has sequenced a few patient viral isolates and aims to sequence several hundred virus isolates in the next 3-4 weeks.

The organisation also has trained 25 medical doctors, technical staff, and students from five government hospitals. These include NIMS, IPM, the Government Fever Hospital in Hyderabad, and the Kakatiya Medical College in Warangal.

The trained staff members have been deployed for the testing activities at their respective hospitals. Further, CSIR-CCMB has also created training videos on best practices for handling patient samples and on RT-PCR. These videos are available for authorised centres.

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