State is likely to procure a genome sequencer machine soon to detect and study new variants of the novel coronavirus amid the growing fear of Delta Plus variant and new mutated variants of concern that may pose higher risk than those strains that have already affected people in Jharkhand, health officials said on Thursday.
A proposal for procurement of a genome sequencer machine is likely to be floated during the next Governing Body meeting of the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), a source closely associated with Health Minister Banna Gupta said.
“A proposal for procurement of genome sequencer machine will be made during the next governing body meeting of RIMS, which is likely to be called very soon,” the source said.
The Health Minister recently asked the RIMS administration to work on starting a department of genome studies in the premiere state-run hospital. Gupta, during a meeting earlier this week, said that genome sequencing was an important part of the state’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and the infrastructure will also help in combatting diseases caused by viruses in future.
“We are trying our level best to improve the health facilities in our state, and genome studies appears to be an important part of the process,” said Gupta.
Jharkhand had sent a proposal for procurement of a genome sequencer machine to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare back in March. However, the proposal was not approved for several months and the state was asked to send RT-PCR samples of Covid patients to the Institute of Live Sciences (ILS) in Bhubaneshwar for genome sequencing, officials said.
The health department recently asked the civil surgeons of all the 24 districts to ensure at least 300 swab samples were sent to Bhubaneswar for genome sequencing every month. As per the directive, each of the 10 sentinel sites for collection of Covid samples will have to send 15 samples every fortnight to Bhubaneswar for genome sequencing – a practice that is likely to help in identification of mutated strains of coronavirus.
However, this process was time consuming and the state would be in a better position to detect new variants of coronavirus if genome sequencing was done in Ranchi itself, officials said.
In the last lot of samples sent to Bhubaneshwar for genome sequencing from Jharkhand, it was found that the Delta variant of coronavirus was the most prevalent variant in the state. The state, however, is yet to report cases of infection caused by the Delta Plus variant, which is said to be even more lethal than the Delta variant.