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Punjab gets its first state-run Covid genome sequencing facility to identify new variants

In a press statement, state Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said that earlier, the Punjab government had to send all samples of patients suspected to have been infected by new variants to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi, where they took more than a month to provide confirmation of new variants.

By: Express News Service | Ludhiana |
Updated: September 16, 2021 11:23:23 pm
Around 150 samples have been tested in the laboratory so far and no new variant of the coronavirus was identified. (Representational)

TO IDENTIFY new variants of the coronavirus, the Punjab government has commenced its first state-run Covid-19 genome sequencing facility at VRDL GMC Patiala laboratory.

Around 150 samples have been tested in the laboratory so far and no new variant of the coronavirus was identified.

In a press statement, state Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said that earlier, the Punjab government had to send all samples of patients suspected to have been infected by new variants to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi, where they took more than a month to provide confirmation of new variants.

According to experts, if any case of new variant found in a specific area, there is immediate need to conduct contact tracing and testing of all suspected patients to further prevent the spread of the virus. He said that with the availability of genome sequencing facility at GMC Patiala, reports are now being received in 5-6 days.

Underlining the features of the facility, Sidhu said the laboratory had received the ‘MinION Mk1C’ developed by UK-based manufacturer Oxford Nanopore. MinION is a unique compact and portable USB-powered device that allows one to sequence both DNA and RNA with real-time analysis, providing immediate access to actionable results. The genome sequencer and supportive equipment has been donated by a US based non-profit organisation, PATH, as part of their on-going Covid-19 response support to the state.

Lauding efforts being made by the in-charge at VRDL GMC Patiala, Sidhu said Dr Rupinder Bakshi and her staff have been tirelessly serving the state since the beginning of the pandemic in March last year. The lab has been recognised among the top 5 labs in Covid-19 RT-PCR testing capacity by ICMR across India. To build on the lab’s existing capacity, a team of research assistants and microbiologists, including the in-charge, Dr Bakshi, have been trained in conducting Covid-19 genome sequencing by a team of experts from Genotypics, a Bangalore-based sequencing research hub. The state has initiated conversations to become a part of the central sequencing consortium, INSACOG.

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