COVID-19 variants found in Pune’s wastewater samples, study says

The study by researchers from CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory was conducted from December 2020 to March 2021.

COVID-19 variants found in Pune’s wastewater samples, study says
A health worker administers a dose of COVID-19 vaccine to a woman, at a vaccination centre in Gurugram, Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo credit: PTI)

As countries cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, the emergence of new variants and strains were posing problems in controlling the spread of the virus. Now, researchers from Pune have managed to identify different variants of COVID-19 in the city’s wastewater drains.

The study, conducted between December 2020 to March 2021, has provided evidence on the usage of wastewater sequencing to identify the mutation and find out variants that are in circulation before they were observed through clinical data, The Indian Express reported.

The analysis of wastewater sequencing, the newspaper said, had revealed two mutations — L452R and E484Q — which are associated with the lineages of the B.1.617 variant or the Delta variant. The mutations were identified in samples collected during March but weren’t found in the earlier samples from December 2020 to February 2021.

Apart from the common variants, the researchers had identified four unique mutations — N801:C480R, NSP14:C279F and NSP3:L550del — which haven’t been identified anywhere in the world.

“The study is significant as it is a first-of-its-kind in the country to test the capability of wastewater sequencing data to provide mutations in circulation before they are observed clinically. Through wastewater epidemiology, we could identify mutations associated with SARS-CoV-2, and that can function as an early warning indicator system,” the researchers were quoted by The Indian Express as saying.

Enhanced COVID-19 genome surveillance

Through seed funding and support from Rockefeller Foundation, the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) under the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has formed a consortium of four city clusters — Hyderabad, Pune, New Delhi and Bengaluru — to elevate the genomic surveillance measures for COVID-19.

The consortium was formed to bolster the efforts of the Indian SARS-Cov-2 Genomic Consortium (INSACOG), which is currently carrying out genomic sequencing and analysis of COVID-19. According to reports, the consortium will help to track the new variants and their emergence in co-relation to the dynamics of epidemiology and the clinical outcomes.

It will also build real-time surveillance and epidemiology capabilities along with strong environmental surveillance and advanced computational techniques. Hyderabad’s CSIR-CCMB is leading the consortium along with Bengaluru’s NIMHANS, New Delhi’s CSIR-IGIB, IISER-Pune, CSIR-NCL of Pune and Pune Knowledge Cluster. Local governments, hospitals and clinicians will work closely with the consortium.

“Our aim is to develop strategies and capabilities to identify Variants of Concern before they spread widely and cause outbreaks. This will also help correlate with clinical symptoms and disease severity, potentially associated with emerging variants,” the research team quoted by news agency PTI as saying.

(With inputs from PTI)

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