To understand the mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the state Covid-19 task force has urged the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to focus on genome sequencing. Calling it the need of the hour Dr Rahul Pandit, critical care specialist at Fortis Hospital and member of the task force, said, “Every new variant of interest could become a variant of concern. It must be contained and nipped in the bud. Genome sequencing can play a crucial role in this. For instance, if a patient tests negative for Covid-19, but displays symptoms indicating the presence of SARS-Cov-2, genome sequencing would help understand the nucleotides,” he added.
Moreover, genome sequencing can also provide a better diagnosis amongst patients showing unusual clinical presentations. “I know deaths are being reported even from the vaccinated population. But that’s the best way forward. With vaccination, the vulnerable population will come down. We will have a significant number of people having a good number of antibodies. It will stop new variants from emerging,” Dr Pandit added.
Earlier, the civic body had conducted genome sequencing on 194 samples, of which 128 were detected with the Delta Plus variant. Again, 380 samples were submitted last week. Results are expected by Thursday.
Meanwhile, health experts believe genome sequencing and the early detection of new variants will help provide essential information to better plan anti-Covid-19 containment measures. Talking about the BMC’s strategy in dealing with the variants, Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, said. “We have begun collecting samples for genome sequencing. Our focus is on the patients who have died during the course of treatment and patients who have taken a long time to recover and have been critical. We are also keeping an eye on people arriving in Mumbai. It will help detect other variants.”
Subhamoy Dastidar, co-founder and director, Lilac Insights, said that genome sequencing is now offering opportunities to assess predisposition to disease. “In the near future, we will see more people obtaining their own whole genome sequence. This will help them understand their illness better and will spare some expensive treatments and complex procedures. It will also help doctors in deciding treatment strategies by classifying tumours according to their drug sensitivities and mutations. This technology will enable non-invasive tumour detection,” he said.
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