Genome sequencing at Delhi’s IGI airport to identify & contain the new mutant variants of Covid-19 virus


CSIR-IGIB and SpiceHealth partnered and initiated a portable testing laboratory for genome sequencing of the positive samples of international travelers at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport (IGI) to contain the new mutant variants of Covid-19 detected in the United Kingdom and other countries.

SpiceHealth has tied-up with CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) to set up a portable testing laboratory for genome sequencing at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International airport for all positive samples from international travelers. CSIR-IGIB is a constituent member of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) recently announced by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW).

Under this program, all positive samples from international travelers arriving at Delhi’s IGI airport would be sequenced at the airport sequencing laboratory, to ensure early action in containing new mutant variants that have increased transmissibility.

According to CSIR the sequencing at the airport is expected to significantly minimize the time to necessary action. CSIR’s experience using portable sequencers suggests that it is possible to identify variants within 48 hours of a person arriving in India and testing positive. If the samples are shipped to regional sequencing labs and then sequenced with the next batch, such time would be approximately one week or more. Sequencing at the airport could thus save as much as five days of potential transmission, reducing the spread of the imported variant strains.

Avani Singh, CEO, SpiceHealth, said, “As our country is preparing for the world’s largest vaccination drive, we cannot afford any form of new distraction that may dilute the ongoing efforts in our war against the Covid-19 pandemic. The new mutant strains of Coronavirus need immediate and effective attention. Our collaboration with CSIR-IGIB is a significant step towards the early detection of new mutant variants. SpiceHealth is firmly committed to this resolve and is proud to roll out a first-of-its-kind laboratory for sequencing at the Delhi airport. Early detection will be crucial to stop the spread of new mutant viruses coming into our country. We are working relentlessly with a range of authorities while offering them all possible support to implement this on-ground.”

Talking about the initiatives taken by CSIR labs during the pandemic, Dr. Shekhar C Mande, DG, CSIR, said, “Throughout the pandemic, CSIR labs, including CSIR-IGIB, have been at the forefront of genomic surveillance using different platforms which have enabled the partnership with SpiceHealth in quickly launching the sequencing at the airports which will be a game-changer in the identification of the SARS-CoV-2 variants. I compliment SpiceHealth for being instrumental in introducing the dry swab direct RT-PCR testing developed by CSIR-CCMB, at SpiceHeath’s mobile labs.”

Adding to it, Dr. Anurag Agrawal, Director, CSIR-IGIB, said, “Affordable and widespread point of care sequencing is one of the most important new trends in next age diagnostics. Here, we plan to use it to help in better monitoring and managing the SARS CoV2 pandemic, but this is just a beginning towards its many potential clinical and public health applications.”

On November 23, SpiceHealth, a healthcare company founded by the promoters of SpiceJet had successfully launched its first mobile testing facility offering the most affordable RT-PCR testing at Rs. 499/ only. SpiceHealth is currently conducting 10,000-15,000 tests per day at its labs functioning at government requested locations around Delhi NCR.

In its bid to offer strong resistance against Covid-19, the Company tied up with CSIR-CCMB for conducting the game-changing dry swab RT-PCR tests at SpiceHealth’s mobile testing laboratories. This move was aimed at significantly ramping up testing while reducing the cost and time.

Earlier, SpiceHealth had also launched SpiceOxy – a compact, portable, non-invasive ventilation device, which is an effective solution for patients with mild to moderate breathing issues. Additionally, SpiceHealth had also introduced a fingertip pulse oximeter, a handy device making it easier for people to measure the oxygen level of the blood.

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