Hyderabad: The State capital continues to remain the preferred destination for scientific institutions involved in research and development on Covid-19 in the country. The Department of Biotechnology (DBT), New Delhi, along with top affiliated research institutions is implementing two major Covid-19 initiatives in Hyderabad, a clear reflection of the infrastructure and scientific capability of the city.
Vaccine clinical trials
Along with five other centres, the DBT identified Hyderabad to take up population-based Covid vaccine clinical trials. As part of the field trials, the DBT has already started Covid-sero-epidemiological studies for survey of at least 5,000 subjects at each of the five sites, including Hyderabad. The other sites where similar initiatives have been launched include Palwal in Haryana, Pune in Maharashtra, Vellore and Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. The aim is to have access to between 50,000 and 1,00,000 population at the five sites combined.
The DBT is collaborating with local voluntary organisations and scientific institutions for community engagement and ensuring Good Clinical Practices (GCP), which are needed to prepare the five sites for population-based vaccine clinical trials.
Genome sequencing project
In yet another initiative related to understanding Covid-19 better, the Hyderabad-based Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostic (CDFD) is part of the DBT’s first pan-India 1000 Genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2. As part of the project, the National Genomics Core of DBT-CDFD has already submitted 34 whole genome sequences of SARS-C0V-2 from Indian samples.
The CDFD is part of a multi-institutional effort to undertake genomic study on the Covid-19 outbreak in India. The study, coordinated by the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG) along with active participation from CDFD and other institutions, is aimed at sequencing the SARS-CoV-2 genome from individuals testing positive for the infection. Efforts pertaining to sequencing of viral genomes from different parts of the country have been initiated under this programme.
The information from the 1000 genome sequencing effort of Covid-19, which was completed within two-and-a-half months and released on Saturday by Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan, is important for public health response aimed at investigating transmission of Covid-19. Senior researchers familiar with the initiative said the sequencing information would improve understanding on how the virus is spreading, which will in turn enable public health officials to interrupt transmission chains and prevent new cases.
Interestingly, the 1000 genome sequencing study has indicated that the region-wise distribution of SARS-CoV-2 haplotypes, which are a set of DNA variations, has shown patterns in the country, which could provide direction to public health experts in their fight to contain the virus. The set of DNA variations or haplotypes are similar in East and Northern and Western and Southern parts of the country, the sequencing study revealed.
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