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Opinion

Experimental therapies should not be used indiscriminately, warns ICMR

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The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) warned on Tuesday against the indiscriminate use of experimental therapies in treating patients with coronavirus disease (Covid-19), saying it puts too much immune pressure on the Sars-Cov- virus. 2, which makes it mutate faster.

The warning comes in the context of the discovery in the UK of a new variant of the virus that causes Covid-19. The new strain, scientists say, is more transmissible than the original.

“The question arises why should these variations occur? These variations occur due to the immune pressure on the virus. The immune pressure on the virus can be related to the environment, it can be related to the host or it can be related to its treatment, or it can be related to other modalities that cause this pressure on the virus. Therefore, it is also important from the perspective of the scientific community that we do not put immunological pressure on the virus, ”said Dr. Balram Bhargava, CEO of ICMR.

Dr. Bhargava’s comments came at the government press conference on Covid-19 updates on Tuesday.

Six returnees from the UK have tested positive for the new UK variant of Sars-Cov-2, according to initial results of genome sequencing of positive samples published by the laboratories of the Sars-Cov-2 Genomics Consortium of India (INASCOG) on Tuesday.

Three of the samples that tested positive for the new UK variant were from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, two from the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, and one from ICMR. -National Institute of Virology, Pune.

“Also, why do we have to maintain a judicious use of the therapies that are going to benefit; If their benefit is not established, we should not use these therapies, otherwise they would exert tremendous immune pressure on the virus and the virus will tend to mutate further. Therapies that are well established should be used, and those that are not well established should be used judiciously, ”added Bhargava.

Critics of convalescent plasma therapy in the past have pointed out how its indiscriminate use could lead to significant mutations in the virus.

From November 25 to midnight December 23, about 33,000 passengers disembarked at various Indian airports from the UK.

All of these passengers are being tracked and subjected by states to reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing for Covid-19. Of all the samples tested, 114 samples have tested positive for Covid-19 so far. These positive samples have been sent to 10 INSACOG laboratories to sequence the genome.

Bhargava said: “Genetic mutations occur in these respiratory viruses; And these small deviations can happen from time to time. Once several deviations occur, they can become significant and become the variant, as has happened in the UK, which has a higher transmissibility of around 60% or so. That is a point of concern, although we are testing variations in India regularly. “

Genomics experts, however, say that there is not much change in terms of how the disease is managed after finding the new UK variant in India.

“It was always probable. Nothing changes in terms of what we have to do. The usual precautions will also work well for this variant, ”said Dr. Anurag Agrawal, Director of the Scientific and Industrial Research Council at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi.

Clinical microbiologists also say that the testing process will remain largely the same in laboratories as well.

“Increased transmissibility means that more people will become infected and since there are no implications on pathogenicity, which is its ability to cause disease, it is not a big concern. For the detection of Covid-19, the same RT-PCR tests will be carried out, and the government surveillance system is already in place and will carry out large-scale genome sequencing to verify the new variant. So nothing essentially changes on the ground, ”said Dr. Navin Kumar, Head of Clinical Microbiology and Infection Prevention, Manipal Hospital, New Delhi.

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