Researchers from the Nepal Health Research Council have been preparing to perform a whole-genome sequencing of the coronavirus to know about its type and its spread.
Whole-genome sequencing is a comprehensive method of analysing the entire DNA sequences of an organism’s genes. Researchers believe that the whole-genome sequencing of the coronavirus could be instrumental in tracking the severity and properties of the virus.
"Without whole-genome sequencing, we cannot know the type of virus that has been spreading throughout the country, " Dr Megnath Dhimal, chief researcher at the council, told the Post.“We need to know if the coronavirus seen in Nepal are of the same strain or there are different strains.”
Earlier, the Ministry of Health and Population had performed the whole gene-sequencing of the coronavirus found on the first Nepali Covid-19 patient, a 32-year-old student who had returned from Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province of China, the epicenter of the disease.
Samples of the virus were sent to the World Health Organization’s reference laboratory in Hong Kong for the study, which became a matter of dispute. Clarifications were sought with officials concerned for sending the virus abroad, without approval from the Health Ministry.
“We need to determine the type of virus found on the student who had returned from Wuhan and on those who imported the disease from India, Middle-East, Europe and other parts of the world” Dhimal said ." Virus mutates frequently and study is necessary for the purposes of treatment and vaccine development."
The council is planning to collect samples of around 60 infected people based on their age group, location and other factors from across the country. Samples will also be extracted from persons who have died of Covid-19.
Dr Geeta Shakya, former director at the National Public Health Laboratory, said that the purpose of genome sequencing was to study the changes in the virus, how it is spreading and whether different strains of virus are responsible for the spread and fatalities.
“Without knowing the strain of the virus, it will also be difficult to administer the vaccine, if developed,” said Shakya.“All viruses mutate over time, so we need to know how fast the mutations are taking place.”
Shakya added that the whole-genome sequencing of the coronavirus is also being performed in various other countries for vaccine development and treatment purposes.
While tests are being performed in Nepal to confirm the infection, health officials are unaware about the type of virus that is sickening and killing people.
The findings of genome-sequencing could offer a better and effective approach to treatment, researchers believe.
As of Sunday, 12, 772 people in the country have been infected with the coronavirus, with 3,013 cases of successful recovery.
The virus has spread in all 77 districts of the country and killed 28 people so far.