- Genome sequencing allows us to look at all changes in the virus: Dr Hazra
- Some mutations can make the virus more transmissible: Dr Hazra
- With the vaccines, COVID-19 variants can be defeated, said Dr Hazra
New Delhi: At the Saluting The Covid Heroes Townhall with Amitabh Bachchan, Dr Aditi Hazra, Associate Epidemiologist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School explained the importance of genome sequencing in identifying and tracking new variants of the virus and controlling the pandemic. According to Dr Hazra, genome sequencing or surveillance also helps in understanding the behaviour of the variant and the way it affects different groups of people. Genome sequencing has helped in learning about the spread and caseload of coronavirus during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
What Is Genome Sequencing?
Dr Hazra said that genome sequencing is the technique of studying the genetic blueprint of a microorganism, in this case, SARS-CoV-2 virus. It is a tool for understanding how the coronavirus is evolving as it mutates and spreads. She said,
Genome sequencing allows us to look at all the 30,000 pairs of errors that make up the virus’ sequence. As the virus spreads, it can mutate. And what genome sequencing is that it tells us a story about the virus. The virus makes errors when it copies itself which is called mutation and these errors can make it more contagious so we need to know where is it more contagious. Most mutations are not harmful but some variant strains arrive and these variants can have a mutation in a critical region of the spike protein of the virus that can make it more transmissible, that can make it evade treatment and impact vaccines.
Why Genome Sequencing Is Important In The Fight Against COVID-19?
Genome sequencing helps in building scientific responses to the pandemic, including the timely development of diagnostic tests, surveillance strategies, vaccines and other new tools for managing the outbreak, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Sequencing the genome help us track the virus, to see where is it spreading, how to identify new variants and then we can control those specific areas and we can also have clinical sampling to allow us to know about how it’s affecting a certain age group, people with certain comorbidity or certain symptoms are more severe so that’s the importance of genome sequencing to better track, identify and control the variant, said Dr Hazra.
She further said that genome sequencing needs to be increased manifold in the country and globally. She highlighted that more sequencing is happening in the cities while the rural areas are lagging. She said,
If the rural part of the country is lagging, then we can implement and bring resources to that region and what we know is that majority of the sequencing has been done in the city. My goal is to help scale rural surveillance and to have more representative sampling throughout the country. It’s just by getting a diagnostic test then that sample is sent for sequencing. So, the diagnostic test tells you if the virus is there. The sequencing tells you the entire storybook of the virus and one page is mutated or ripped out so that is what we are trying to fix. Let’s say we are running a race, you want to know which one is running faster so that’s what I would say, we are trying to catch the one that is running the fastest.
Vaccines Are The Best Defense Against Covid Variants: Dr Aditi Hazra
Underlining the importance of vaccination against COVID-19 and urging people to take the shot available to them, Dr Hazra said,
Coronavirus will keep mutating but what we know for sure is that the vaccines are effective. Vaccine against Covid is a shot of hope. We need the vaccines and with it, variants can be defeated.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.