Mutant strain of virus to be studied in Jaipur

The mutant strain of the virus causing COVID-19, detected in Britain, will be studied at Sawai Man Singh Government Hospital here with genetic sequencing and testing of the spike protein. The biggest hospital in Rajasthan is developing the study facility at its state-of-the-art microbiology laboratory.

SMS Medical College’s principal and controller Sudhir Bhandari told The Hindu on Thursday that the samples for study would be obtained from the patients returning from Britain and other European countries, who test positive in the regular RT-PCR investigation. The hospital’s Microbiology Department was already conducting 6,000 RT-PCR tests a day, he said.

The sequencing lab, expected to start shortly, will detect the mutation in SARS-CoV-2 by testing spike protein and the specific genes which were targeted as part of screening of the infection cases.

Dr. Bhandari said any structural changes found in spike protein or the mutation detected in the virus would indicate an alteration in its infection properties.

Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also pointed out on Thursday that the new variant of the virus could spread 70% faster. He called upon the people to take all precautions to avoid infection and adhere to the protocol of wearing masks and maintaining social distancing.

Mr. Gehlot said the infection by the new virus strain has been detected in countries, such as Austria, France and Belgium, in addition to Britain. The State government is alert for screening of the people travelling from these countries.

The SMS Hospital was the first medical institution to use hydroxychloroquine and anti-HIV drugs, Lopinavir and Ritonavir, in the first few COVID-19 patients earlier this year with encouraging results. “All these drugs are today a part of solidarity trial by the World Health Organisation. The recovery rate has been phenomenal because of [our] intense management,” Dr. Bhandari said.

Dr. Bhandari, who heads the COVID-19 management group, said the State had achieved the recovery rate of 95% with the help of medical experts, administrative action and healthcare facilities. The condition of each patient with or without co-morbid symptoms was assessed and their management planned along with a close monitoring, he said.

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