COVID-19: Maharashtra govt teams up with CSIR-IGIB for mutant tracking

The Maharashtra Government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) for SARS-CoV- 2 genome sequencing. This move is along the lines of the Kerala Government, which had launched a genome sequencing programme to better understand the mutation of the novel coronavirus and validate the policies implemented to contain its transmission.

Dr Pradeep Vyas, Principal Secretary, Public Health, issued a notification on the MoU between the state government and CSIR-IGIB on Thursday.

Such an initiative was necessitated as the new mutant strains of coronavirus need immediate and effective attention. Early detection will be crucial to stop the spread of new mutants in the state.

As per the MoU, nearly 100 samples from 25 districts witnessing Covid positivity will be collected each month and sent for genome sequencing and this will be a three-month-long exercise.

A senior public health department official told The Free Press Journal, “Genome sequencing is being done in a wider geographic area of a pathogen (in this case, the SARS-CoV- 2) as it helps in tracking mutants as and when they emerge in different geographical locations. These, therefore, form a very important tool in a surveillance mechanism, especially of mutants when they arrive. This partnership of Maharashtra Government with IGIB will address some of these issues.” He said the state government would spend Rs 1.62 crore plus GST on this exercise.

State Covid TaskForce member Dr Shashank Joshi, who was engaged in a series of discussions in this connection, said,”We need to do district-wise genome mapping and clinically correlate if there are any variants of concern in each district of Maharashtra. So, jointly, the Maharashtra government and the CSIR will systematically study this under a research programme.” He further added that IGIB DG Dr Anurag Agarwal and CSIR DG Dr Shekhar Mande would ensure that a systematic study would be done.

The state government’s move comes at a time when active cases in Maharashtra are expected to touch 10.25 lakh by May 11, from the present 6,70,301.

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