NGS for detection of the new Covid-19 variants. The Covid-19 pandemic led to extensive research and motivated the scientists to come up with novel solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. For this purpose, the researchers have been continuously working towards detangling the genetic information of the SARS-CoV-2 virus with the help of various technologies. Even though the current RT-PCR tests help detect the presence of the virus, it does not provide any information about the viral genome. Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) has proven to be quite helpful in this scenario, especially when new strains of SARS-CoV-2 are developing rapidly as a result of mutation.
The new Covid-19 strains
Just as everybody was celebrating the reducing number of Covid-19 positive cases, two new mutant strains of the highly infectious virus came to evidence. The mutant viral strains are known to have originated in the UK and South Africa, from where the spread has been suspected to other parts of the world.
However, this did not come as a shock to the scientific world because viruses have a high mutation rate and in case of a pandemic, mutations are very likely to happen. Both the new variants have mutations in their spike proteins, which are associated with easier and faster penetration into the host cells, thus suggesting a faster infection rate as compared to the previous strain of SARS-CoV-2. As per the virologists and epidemiologists, the B117 viral strain is 70% more transmissible as compared to the SARS-CoV-2 strain. Additionally, the reproduction rate of the new viral train is comparatively higher. It also causes a higher risk of re-infection as it is susceptible to antibody neutralization, as per the researchers. This raise concerns all over the world since most countries have already begun their vaccination programs and it is not sure whether these vaccines will remain effective against the new viral strains. On other hand, the good news is that the new strain does not lead to severity in its infection.
What is NGS?
Since the difference between the Covid-19 strain and mutated strains lies in their genomes, the present diagnostic kits cannot distinguish between the two. Hence, a novel method must be developed that can detect these minute differences on the genomic levels of the virus. NGS refers to the latest method of genome sequencing which is cost-efficient and less time-consuming compared to the conventional genome sequencing methods such as the Shotgun method or Sanger’s method. Hence, scientists believe that using NGS we can easily detect and distinguish the mutated variants from the Covid-19 strain within no time. It will allow the health authorities across the globe to keep a proper and updated track record of the new variants, which might help prevent a larger pandemic.
Global scenario of the all the Covid-19 variants
At present, the world has 100 million total Covid-19 cases including the old and new variants too. So far, the pandemic has taken over 2.16 million lives while 55.4 million have managed to recover from it. The USA remains to be the worst-hit country by the virus since last year, followed by India and Brazil. Many countries have started administering the Covid-19 vaccines to its citizens and healthcare workers. Even though there have been reports of adverse side-effects post-vaccination experienced by the recipients globally, there has been no reported case of re-infection by the mutated variants to date.
Written By:- Shruti Rathore
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