Saturday September 25, 2021

Delta variant predominantly found in Karachi

Delta variant predominantly found in Karachi

KARACHI: The National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, has started approaching various institutions performing genome sequencing of Coronavirus throughout the country to become part of a national consortium for sharing their data research, while experts in Karachi claimed to have found out some ‘unidentified variants’ following genotyping of 94 randomly selected SARS-COV-2 samples.

“We have approached around eight to 10 institutions, conducting partial or whole genome sequencing of SARS-COV-2 or Coronavirus and offered them to join research and share data with each other,” an official of the National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, told The News on Thursday. The official said in addition to the NIH, Islamabad, there were some institutions that have the capacity to perform partial or complete genome sequencing of the SARS-COV-2 but added they were not sharing their research and data with each other.

“The objective of the consortium is to enhance their capacity to conduct more focused research and avoid its duplication. In this way, we would be helping each other in monitoring the disease spread and evolution of the virus,” the official said, adding that most of institutions had expressed willingness to become part of the consortium.

At the moment, only the NIH Islamabad and Aga Khan University (AKU) are sharing data of their genomic sequencing and research with each other. Whereas other institutions, including the National Institute of Blood Diseases (NIBD), Karachi, National Institute of Virology (NIV) at the Dr. Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), University of Karachi, and Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT), with the capacity to perform genome sequencing are neither sharing their data at the national level nor even locally with each other.

Similarly, “the Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) Karachi is also conducting research on genomics of SARS-COV-2 and they will get their gene sequencing very soon while Ziauddin University has also acquired the capacity to do so,” the official added. In addition to Karachi’s institutions, several other educational and health facilities, including Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), National Institute for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBJE), Islamabad, are also conducting genome sequencing and research in molecular genetics, who can be asked to become part of the national consortium, the official added.

Director ICCBS KU Dr. Iqbal Chaudhry expressed readiness to become part of the national consortium, but added they require material and financial resources to conduct the expensive research and studies. “Research in molecular genetics and genomic studies is a costly affair. At the moment, most of our funding is coming from the Sindh government which is very proactive and taking decisions based on scientific data generated by us and other institutions”, Dr. Chaudhry added.

The MD of NIBD Karachi and prominent Hematologist, Dr. Tahir Shamsi, also confirmed being approached by the NIH, Islamabad, and added that they have expressed their willingness to become part of the initiative. “We have no objection but we need resources as performing whole genome sequencing of a sample required Rs50,000 to Rs100,000. Consumables and other expenses are a major hurdle in conducting research in genomics," he added.

Meanwhile, the genotyping of around 94 randomly selected positive samples of Covid-19 in Karachi identified 65 or 69 percent cases were of Delta variant while 25 or 26 percent samples were of ‘unidentified’ variants, ICCBS officials said on Thursday.

The National Institute of Virology (NIV) at the Dr. Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), University of Karachi, has processed 2,062 samples received from the Sindh Health Department from July 12 to 13, 2021, and found 163 to be positive. Of these 163 positive samples, genotyping of 94 samples was conducted at NIV out of which 69 percent of Delta variant was predominantly found in Karachi while 25 samples were of unidentified variants, Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Chaudhary, Director ICCBS said.

“The results of the genotyping, conducted at the National Institute of Virology, show 65 delta (Indian) variants, two South African variants, 25 unidentified variants, and two wild type variants,” he said. These 25 unidentified variants could be Delta plus variant or some other variants of concern as per the WHO classification, he added.