Nimhans to sequence +ve samples of Kerala returnees | Bengaluru News – Times of India

BENGALURU: Nimhans is set to conduct genomic sequencing on swab samples taken from students in nursing colleges in Mangaluru and Bengaluru who tested positive for Covid. The aim is to check if a new variant of the SARSCoV-2 virus was responsible for these outbreaks. The samples were delivered to Nimhans on February 16.
In the first week of February, 168 of a total 1,898 students from Kerala enrolled in four nursing colleges in Bengaluru tested positive. Similarly, 23 of 908 students tested positive in two engineering colleges in Mangaluru. A week later, there was a similar cluster outbreak in Bengaluru when 45 students in a nursing college in Bengaluru’s RT Nagar tested positive. Most of those who had contracted the virus had returned from Kerala.
Dr V Ravi, virologist, and nodal officer for genetic confirmation of SARS-CoV-2 virus in Karnataka, said genomic sequencing will help determine if a mutation of the virus or a new variant was responsible for spread.
“Not all positive samples can be analysed. Genomic sequencing can be done if the cycle threshold (CT) value of the sample is less than 25 in an RT-PCR test,” he said. CT value is the number of cycles needed in an RT-PCR test to amplify viral RNA to a detectable level. Low CT value is an indication of a high viral load.
Genomic consortia

Meanwhile, the Centre launched Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG) comprising 10 prominent labs in the country. The move comes in the wake of rising cases in Kerala and Maharashtra. The labs will study if there is a new Indian variant of the virus. Nimhans is one of the labs.
The consortium has sent a proposal to the Centre on monitoring genomic variations on a regular basis through the multi-laboratory network and also on funds required, said Dr Anita Desai, HOD, neurovirology, Nimhans.
Dr Ravi said, “The mandate of these labs is to detect new variants that come into India through international travellers. The other mandate is to find out if there is a mutation of the virus or is it an emergence of a new variant when cluster cases occur.”
Nimhans will also attend to clusters occurring in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry. Dr Ravi said 5% of routine samples in every state will be taken for genomic sequencing.

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Sagar Biswas

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