first Genome Sequencing Lab

In a significant move towards early identification of COVID19 variants, a Whole Genome Sequencing lab will be set up in J&K in the month of May, the first of the two being procured, J&K Government said today“.

Additional Chief Secretary J&K Government, Health and Medical Education, Vivek Bhardwaj, while speaking to Greater Kashmir said two Genome Sequencing consoles have been ordered for J&K’s two Government Medical Colleges in Jammu and Srinagar. The first of these, he said, had been shipped and was expected to be set up in the month of May. “From May, we will be able to carry out Whole Genome Sequencing of positive samples of COVID19 in J&K itself,” he said. He said that the availability of the facility will expedite the WGS of samples from J&K.

The facility assumes significance in view of the emergence of new variants of concern and their spread. In the past week, the fresh threat of XE Variant after confirmation in a sample in India, has triggered fears of a new wave of the COVID19. The type of the variant in a positive sample can only be confirmed by WGS, doctors stressing that it is important to have timely data about circulating variants for better COVID19 mitigation measures.

Managing Director JK Medical Supplies Corporation Limited (JKMSCL) Dr Yashpal Sharma said that the equipment would be set up at GMC Jammu in May and at GMC Srinagar in June. “Both machines stand ordered and are in various stages of supply,” he said while adding that the equipment was arriving from outside the country. Dr Sharma said that J&K Government had a contract with the supplier to provide manpower for the initial six months. “By then, our manpower will also get trained to do this,” he said. While commenting about the delay in procurement of the equipment, Dr Sharma said that there was a shortage of WGS equipment and it took time to shortlist a trusted supplier. “Very few states and only the most premier of the Institutes in India have a Genome Sequencer. This will help in the research arena also, in addition to helping in COVID19 mitigation measures,” he said.

While the XE variant has been reported from India, most of the experts have maintained that there is no need to panic. The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) chief, NK Arora, has said Omicron variants of the X series are very benign and not seen to be causing either a fast spread or serious disease in India.

Courtesy : Zehru Nissa

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