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Sequencing Novel Coronavirus

  • 08 Apr 2020
  • 5 min read

Why in News

India has shared nine whole genome sequences of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) with the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID).

  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has allowed all national research laboratories to conduct testing for the novel coronavirus.

Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data

  • GISAID is a public platform started by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2008 for countries to share genome sequences.
  • The GISAID Initiative promotes the international sharing of all influenza virus sequences, related clinical and epidemiological data associated with human viruses, and geographical as well as species-specific data associated with avian and other animal viruses
    • This helps researchers understand how the viruses evolve, spread and potentially become pandemics.
  • It actively promotes the development of novel research tools for the analysis of influenza data by helping developers to facilitate the integration or connection of their tools to analyze GISAID data.

Key Points

  • So far, 3,086 sequences of the virus isolated from humans have been shared by 57 countries.
    • With 621, the U.S. has shared the most number of sequences, followed by the U.K. (350), Belgium (253) and China (242).
  • It has been found that a spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 also known as 2019-nCoV, enables the virus to enter and infect human cells.
  • Sequencing the genome of SARS-CoV-2 will help understand
    • where the virus came from.
    • if there are different strains circulating in India.
    • how the virus has spread.
  • Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of Adenine, Cytosine, Guanines, and Thymine that make up an organism's DNA.
  • On April 2, 2020, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) allowed all national research laboratories including those under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct testing for the novel coronavirus.
  • According to CSIR
    • Both the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB, Telangana) and the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB, New Delhi) have already started sequencing the virus.
    • The CCMB has both Biosafety Level (BSL)-2 and BSL-3 labs.
    • The virus is isolated and deactivated in BSL-3 facility and sequenced in BSL-2 facility.
    • Besides sequencing, the virus will also be cultured (grown in cells).
      • Cell culture is the maintenance and growth of the cells in specially designed containers and under precise conditions of temperature, humidity, nutrition, and freedom from contamination.
      • This will help in studying the virus and will be useful while testing vaccines and drugs.

Biosafety levels

  • BSL is used to identify the protective measures needed in a laboratory setting to protect workers, the environment, and the public.
  • Activities and projects conducted in biological laboratories are categorized by biosafety level.
  • The four biosafety levels are BSL-1, BSL-2, BSL-3, and BSL-4, with BSL-4 being the highest (maximum) level of containment.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research

  • CSIR was established by the Government of India in September 1942 as an autonomous body.
  • It is known for its cutting edge R&D knowledge base in diverse S&T areas.
  • Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been ranked first in the Nature Ranking Index-2020.
    • The Nature Index provides a close to real-time proxy of high-quality research output and collaboration at the institutional, national and regional level.

Indian Council of Medical Research

  • ICMR is the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research.
  • Its mandate is to conduct, coordinate and implement medical research for the benefit of the Society; translating medical innovations into products/processes and introducing them into the public health system.
  • It is funded by the Government of India through the Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

Source: TH

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