Considering the surge in coronavirus infections in some districts, the state Health Department has directed district health officials to send 100 samples each for genomic sequencing at Pune’s National Institute of Virology and National Centre for Cell Science.
“100 samples each from Amravati, Yavatmal and Akola districts, which are reporting a surge in coronavirus infections, will be sent to National Institute of Virology and National Centre for Cell Science for genomic sequencing,” Director of Health Dr Archana Patil told The Indian Express.
Each district has been asked to send 25 samples of asymptomatic cases, 25 of mild cases, 25 of serious infections and remaining of deaths due to Covid-19.
According to State Surveillance Officer Dr Pradeep Awate, there is approximately 30 per cent positivity rate of Covid infections at Amravati, 15 per cent positivity at Yavatmal and 23 per cent at Akola.
At B J Medical College, the laboratory that has now been accredited by the state to conduct genomic sequencing, a small study in these areas did not show presence of the UK or South African variants. While the sample size was small (12), researchers found some specific mutations in Amravati, Yavatmal and Satara.
“We need larger studies but the Yavatmal mutation is linked to the one prevalent in Andhra Pradesh and reported from one case of reinfection from North India,” said Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, head of the microbiology department at BJMC. The laboratory has also received six samples from Akola.
The laboratory has got a new sequencer where 24 samples were processed. At a time 96 samples can be processed at a time in the sequencer. Four samples each from Amravati, Yavatmal and Satara and other six from Pune were processed . It takes 16 hours for a single run, Dr Karyakarte said. The team that includes Dr Rashmita Das, Dr Suvarna Joshi , Dr Athira Jayaraman and others have been engaged in conducting RT-PCR tests and 1.8 lakh samples have been tested.
Mutations are common in coronaviruses and SARS-CoV 2 has been found to have many different clades. Mutation in the spike protein, D614G, continues to be the common one so far, Dr Karyakarte said.
“This is a natural evolution of the virus and, in four samples from Amravati, researchers found specific mutations, like E484Q (an escape mutant that evades neutralising antibodies, and has also been found in South Africa and Brazil variants). We do not know how fast this mutation is spreading and more studies will be required,” he said.
At Yavatmal, researchers found specific N440K mutation, which is prevalent in Andhra Pradesh and reported from one case of re-infection in north India. In Satara, from four samples, one mutation V911I was found. More studies will be required to understand the significance of these mutations, Dr Karyakarte said. The laboratory is analysing six more samples from Akola.
Samples received from different places are being sent to the National Centre for Cell Science.
“So far, from September till now, 320 samples from Pune and other places have been sent to NCCS to check for presence of UK strain,” Dr Karyakarte said.
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