The number of COVID-19 variations being tracked is decreasing.

In July, just 184 genomes were sequenced.


The second wave has yet to reach its nadir, and there are hints that a third wave is on the way, but India’s efforts to sequence genomes to watch for new variations have dwindled since April.

Only 184 genomes were sequenced in July, according to data from the National SARS-CoV-2 Genome Consortium (INSACOG), a network of 28 labs across the nation prepared to sequence coronavirus genomes for new variations. In June, 4,381 samples were sequenced, a significant decrease from the 13,142 samples sequenced in May and April (15,546 samples). During the last two months, India took the brunt of the second wave, which saw daily instances reach 400,000.

According to an answer to a query in the Lok Sabha, as of July 30, INSACOG had sequenced 58,240 genomes, of which 46,124 samples had been analyzed and their lineages (variant histories) determined and submitted to the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC).

However, according to INSACOG data available on the website of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, one of the primary INSACOG laboratories, 49,770 genomes have been analyzed and allocated to 232 lineages. Kerala and Maharashtra have their own genome monitoring programs, thus these statistics include genomes sequenced by them.

According to a scientist from one of the INSACOG laboratories, there is usually a lag between when samples from an area, from any month, are examined, and that the number of July samples will grow in the following weeks. The scheme, however, is not without its difficulties. The INSACOG program was originally intended to last three months, however, due to the project’s recent extension, the funding available to laboratories for sequencing has been delayed. The other reason, according to this source, is that many states are failing to provide samples: “The National Center for Disease Control has mandated that at least 300 samples be sent from each state every month.

Last Monday, the Health Ministry stated in the Lok Sabha that the previous instructions were to sequence 15 samples from every sentinel site in each State every 15 days to ensure that districts were represented epidemiologically. Sentinel sites, which include notified labs and tertiary care hospitals, are intended to be established in every state. “In comparison to a random 5% sample sequencing method, this is a more varied sampling strategy,” the Ministry said.

28 states and union territories have contributed to the INSACOG database. As a result, the optimal number of samples each month is 8,400, which, as the data for June and July show, is considerably below the need.

The Delta variation remains the most common in India, but due to inadequate sequencing, it will be hard to determine whether new variants are generating surges. Kerala currently reports almost half of the daily caseload and other northeastern states are seeing growing trends. According to the INSACOG database, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Assam, and Tripura each provided less than 200 samples for genome sequencing.

Despite the fact that July contains the smallest number of samples, the proportion of Delta variant samples has dropped to 73 percent from over 85 percent in May and June.

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