A genome sequencing machine to identify the several variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was installed at the civic-run Kasturba Gandhi Hospital on Tuesday. It is the first hospital to conduct genome sequencing in Mumbai. The facility, which will be fully operational from next week, will begin by testing a few samples on a trial basis. Doctors said now they won’t have to send samples to the National Institute of Virology in Pune.
Additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said the machine will be inaugurated by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday. He said the civic body will collect samples from international passengers, Covid-19 hot spots and places with high transmission rates.
Kakani said 23 cases with Delta plus variant have been detected across the state, of which three were diagnosed in Mumbai. “With this machine, we will be able to identify new variants within three to four days. It will help us to tackle the third wave of Covid-19,” he said. The machine, he said, can run tests on 380 samples per round and each test will cost the BMC Rs 10,000.
The in-charge of the molecular diagnostic reference laboratory of the hospital, Dr Jayanti Shastri said the testing constitutes three phases of library presentation, sequencing and analysis. In the first phase, it takes two to three days for pre-sequencing preparation, followed by sequencing of samples which takes four to five hours, followed by time to analyse the samples.
She said the hospital has been sending samples to the Pune institute for genome sequencing, with reports coming in two to three months later. She said, “This delays the epidemiological study of the mutated virus in infected patients. With this new machine, the results of 380 samples would be available within three to four days.”
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