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Karnataka: Four genome-sequencing labs to start receiving samples

During the peak of the second wave of Covid-19, the state government had declared to set up six genome-sequencing labs in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Shivamogga, Hubli, Mangaluru and Vijayapura.

The need for genomic surveillance is imperative at a time when there is a constant race between vaccines and variants. (File)

The process of setting up of four genome-sequencing laboratories at the Gulbarga Institute of Medical Sciences, Mysore Medical College, Belgaum Institute of Medical Sciences and the Bowring Institute of Medical Science has been completed and the centres will start receiving samples later this week, TK Anil Kumar, the principal secretary of the department of health and family welfare, said.

“Equipment has been sent to the colleges. They are expected to receive the samples this week. The fact is that there are other public health labs attached with the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genome Consortia (INSACOG) but even they do not receive samples often as the cases are very low. However, the labs set up at the medical colleges will start receiving the samples later this week,” he said.

During the peak of the second wave of Covid-19, the state government had declared to set up six genome-sequencing labs in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Shivamogga, Hubli, Mangaluru and Vijayapura. Out of these six labs, four were to be under the jurisdiction of the medical education department and two under the health department.

Member of the state Genomic Surveillance Committee and Regional Director, Head and Neck Surgical Oncology and Robotic Surgery, HCG Cancer Hospital, Dr Vishal Rao, said that the need for genomic surveillance is imperative at a time when there is a constant race between vaccines and variants.

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“Mapping the evolving genomic nature of the virus would help us accelerate the public health response. Keeping a track of sero prevalence, vaccination status and genomic surveillance data would help us plan effective public health strategies. Currently, Karnataka supported by INSACOG is able to cater to the needs of genomic surveillance with the existing labs. However, the possibility of an impending wave has nudged us in accelerating the process of setting up genomic labs,” he added.

Notably, the Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday asked the states and Union territories for “rigorous screening and testing of all international arrivals.”

“The contacts of these international travellers must also be closely tracked and tested as per MoHFW guidelines and the samples of travellers turning positive are to be sent to the designated INSACOG Genome Sequencing Laboratories (IGSLs) promptly, as per the INSACOG guidance document. State Surveillance Officers must also establish a close coordination with their designated/tagged IGSLs for expediting results of genomic analysis, and the States/UTs should immediately undertake necessary public health measures, in case presence of Variants of Concern/Variants of interest (VOCs/Vols) is reported by the INSACOG network,” the MHA order read.

First published on: 30-11-2021 at 20:12 IST
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