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FPJ Explains: From COVID-19 to Omicron - What is Genome Sequencing?

01:57 PM Dec 04, 2021 | FPJ Web Desk

As the world had just begun to slowly march towards normalcy after grappling the Covid-19 pandemic for two years, the discovery of a new Omicron variant spurred new fears in the minds of people.

First identified in South Africa, the WHO grouped Omicron as a “Variant of Concern.” The category implies that the variant might have a higher transmissibility, cause more intense disease, and may be less likely to respond to vaccines or treatments. However, researchers need more information to confirm these factors.

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After India detected two Omicron variant cases, both of them in Karnataka, the Central government has asked the states to take various strict measures including genome sequencing reports of passengers flying in from Europe, the USA, Russia and many other international countries.

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Genomic sequencing has emerged as an increasingly necessary tool in the effort to trace in spots of Covid-19, as governments around the world grapple with the inevitability of continued transmission in lieu of a vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Genomic sequencing allows scientists to identify SARS-CoV-2 and monitor how it changes over time into new variants, understand how these changes affect the characteristics of the virus, and use this information to better understand how it might impact health.

In short, Genomic sequencing allows health authorities to map coronavirus clusters. Matching the genomic findings of a Covid-19 case to epidemiological information can help authorities track down the source of the virus.

What is genomic sequencing?

The SARS-CoV-2 genome which is sought for during your COVID-19 checks, encodes instructions organized into sections, called genes, to build the virus. Scientists use a process called genomic sequencing to decode the genes and learn more about the virus.

Scientists believe that the genome sequence represents a valuable cue, helping them find genes much more easily and quickly. Genomic sequencing analyses the virus sample collected from a diagnosed patient and compares it with other cases.

According to WHO, Sequencing enabled the world to rapidly identify SARS-CoV-2 and develop diagnostic tests and other tools for outbreak management. Continued genome sequencing supports the monitoring of the disease’s spread and evolution of the virus.

The central government has made RT-PCR mandatory for all travellers from “at-risk” countries. As for the travellers from other countries, five per cent of incoming passengers will be tested for COVID-19 on arrival. Those found positive will have to undergo the COVID-19 treatment protocol.

With Agency Inputs

Also Read: India updates list of 'at-risk' countries: Check out full list

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