Is increased hospitalisation due to Omicron? Centre has a way to know

Genome sequencing strategy undergoes a change with focus on understanding the severity of the disease

Omicron wave
Scientists say that genome sequencing should be ramped up to better understand virus behaviour and prevent future risks posed by mutations.

To gauge the extent of Omicron spread in India, the Centre has decided to send samples of hospitalised patients for gene sequencing. So, instead of random sampling, genome sequencing will be given more importance.

The country is set to revise its genome sequencing strategy to know the actual reason for hospitalisation and deaths in COVID-19 patients, reports India Today, adding that instead of counting Omicron cases, focus will be on understanding the severity of the disease. States have already been instructed to send samples of COVID-19 patients from hospitals.

Scientists say that genome sequencing should be ramped up to better understand virus behaviour and prevent future risks posed by mutations.

Genome or gene sequencing is an advanced method by which researchers ascertain the genetic information patterns of an organism. It also provides insights into the likelihood of changes or mutations in the genes as part of the organism’s natural survival mechanism. Knowledge of these changes helps in designing and developing therapeutics.

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Also read: Vaccine efficacy: What’s holding India back from ramping up genome sequencing

As vaccines are being rolled out across the world, and there are apprehensions regarding their effectiveness, genome sequencing would provide valuable inputs to tweak vaccine design, thereby improving their range and efficacy.

India reported 2.47 lakh new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday (January 13), the highest single-day rise during the ongoing third wave. A total of 84,825 patients have recovered while 380 people lost their lives. The active case count is 11,17,531 with daily positivity rate of 13.11%. Omicron count stands at 5,488, with Maharashtra (1,367) and Rajasthan (792) at the top. Delhi has 549 cases, Kerala 486, Karnataka 479, West Bengal 294 and UP has 275.

Meanwhile, the AstraZeneca Vaxzevaria vaccine showed an increased antibody response to the Omicron variant of COVID-19 after a third booster dose, preliminary data released by the Anglo-Swedish biopharma major said on Thursday.

In an ongoing safety and immunogenicity trial of the vaccine, a formulation developed by Oxford University and administered in India as Covishield, it was found that given as a third dose increased the body’s immune response to Beta, Delta, Alpha and Gamma SARS-CoV-2 variants.

A separate analysis of samples from the trial showed increased antibody response to the Omicron variant. The results were observed among individuals previously vaccinated with either Vaxzevria or an mRNA vaccine. The company said it is submitting this additional data to health authorities around the world given the urgent need for third dose boosters.

(With inputs from agencies)

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