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INSACOG sequencing aided in the detection of variant concerns in real time: Government | India News


NEW DELHI: Genome sequencing by India’s SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium helped detect ‘worrying variants’ in real time and was also shared with states, the Union Health Ministry said Tuesday , highlighting that the response time was 10 to 15 days.
The ministry said the effect of known ‘variants of concern’ (VoC) on transmission and severity of the disease is already established.
But for new mutations or variants under investigation, and for correlation of genomic mutations with epidemiological scenarios and clinical perspective, it is important to monitor epidemiological trends of cases, clinical severity and the proportions of samples with genomic variants, he said.
These must be done in a few weeks to generate scientifically valid evidence, the ministry said.
The Ministry of Health also referred to some media reports alleging a low amount of sequencing in the country and a significant delay between collecting samples and submitting sequences to the database for pattern detection and actionable alerts to governments.
“Clarifies that a sampling strategy is based on country objectives, scientific principles, and WHO (World Health Organization) guidance documents. Consequently, the strategy has been revised and revised from time to time.” , He said.
On December 25 last year, the government established the India SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium (INSACOG) to study and monitor genome sequencing and virus variation of circulating COVID-19 strains in the India.
In the initial phase, the sampling was carried out in order to identify international travelers who could be carrying the variant strains and to find out if the variant or variants are already present in the population.
Consequently, a two-pronged strategy was adopted: international passengers arriving from selected countries and their contacts were selected for whole genome sequencing (WGS), and five percent of cases were community-based sampling. positive RT-PCR of each. Express.
It is important to note that the five percent rule was selected based on the daily load of cases (approximately 10,000-15,000 per day) and the sequencing capacity of the Regional Genome Sequencing Laboratories (RGSL) at the time, he said. the ministry.
Both goals were met when it was conclusively established that international passengers carried variants and the transmission of these had also been established in the community in some states, he said.
Subsequently, in line with the global sequencing strategy and the WHO guidance document, INSACOG has revised the sampling strategy with the aim of detecting emerging genomic variants or mutations through prospective sampling and detecting VOCs and genomic variants in special events. and unusual such as large clusters, unusual clinical presentation, vaccine progress, suspected reinfections, among others, the ministry said.
He said that, accordingly, a strategy has been adopted in view of the increase in the number of new COVID-19 cases, the existing capacity of RGSL and the timely detection of VoC, including other genomic variants that are being detected in the country and in other places. The strategy was reviewed on April 12 by the ‘Sentinel Watch’, the ministry said.
This was also endorsed by the WHO, which had issued similar guidance, he said.
Under the current sentinel surveillance strategy, states have identified five laboratories and five tertiary care hospitals each as sentinel sites to send samples to designated RGSLs and each of the sentinel sites routinely sends 15 samples for WGS to laboratories. designated, the ministry said.
In addition to sentinel surveillance, additional event-based surveillance for special and unusual events has also been approved to detect, investigate and respond to these, he said.
The details of the epidemiological investigations, the study methodology, the number of samples to collect for WGS depends on the situation or event.
“In terms of response time, INSACOG sequencing has helped in real-time detection of VOCs and this was also shared with the relevant states. The current response time for VOCs is only 10-15 days.” the ministry said.
As for improving the number and capacity of existing genome sequencing laboratories, it is reported that in addition to the 10 existing laboratories, another 18 were also approved for incorporation into the INSACOG network, the ministry added.

Times of India