A pan-India study by the Department of Biotechnology suggests that A2a strain of SARS-CoV-2 — the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 — has not undergone any major mutation since June and there is no indication that the vaccine or diagnostics strategy would be hindered.
Mutation typically refers to the property of a virus to undergo changes when it multiplies and the virus may develop some new strains after it replicates.
The DBT’s National Institute of Biomedical Genomics have sequenced 1,058 genomes in the past six months.
Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or building blocks. It helps in understanding how genes work together to direct the growth, development and maintenance of an entire organism.
Saumitra Das, the director of the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics, said the institutes started sequencing the virus from different parts of the country from April.
In some cases, the new strains tend to be less effective and therefore die out soon, while in other cases they may become more powerful and lead to faster spread of the virus.
There had been concerns in some quarters that any major mutation detected in the novel coronavirus could hinder the development of an effective vaccine. However, some recent global studies have said the vaccines currently being developed for COVID-19 should not be affected by recent mutations.
The A2a clade, also the most predominant strain globally, accounts for 80-90 per cent of the genomes from India.