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Mumbai’s Kasturba hospital to start genome sequencing

Two weeks after installation of genome sequencing machines in their laboratory, Kasturba Gandhi Hospital in Byculla is likely to start conducting tests to identify variants of Sars-CoV-2 — the virus that causes Covid-19 — by this weekend. The hospital will be the first civic-run facility to conduct genome sequencing in Mumbai.

Genome sequencing is an exercise to study the changes in the structure of the virus over time. A combination of changes in the ribonucleic acid of the virus can give birth to a new variant.

The genome sequencing machines were inaugurated on August 4 by chief minister Uddhav Thackeray. At present, molecular diagnostic reference laboratory of the hospital is completing the process of installing the machines. Dr Jayanti Shastri, in-charge of the laboratory, said, “We are just completing validation of the machines. These will start testing this week.”

With 11 Delta Plus variants identified in Mumbai, genome sequencing will help boost identification of Delta and Delta Plus variants in the city. Currently, it takes more than two-three months to get test results of genome sequencing which delays the epidemiological study of the mutated virus in infected patients. With this laboratory, results will be available within three-four days.

“The samples will be collected through the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) from international passengers, Covid-19 hotspots, places with high transmission rate, among others,” said Dr Shastri.

HT had earlier reported that due to Covid-19 restrictions on international cargo ferrying, the hospital had to wait for months to get the machines from Chicago. The machines have been procured through donations that cumulatively cost around ₹10.5 crore. A US-based biotech company has donated ₹6.4 crore, while Mumbai-based ATE Chandra Foundation donated ₹4 crore for the machine. Hindustan Times