By Aashish Mishra
Kathmandu, Dec 1: The genetic strains of the coronavirus spreading in Nepal is similar to that of the virus spreading in India, a gene sequencing study by Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC) has found.
In the first of its kind study in the country, NHRC collected 15 samples from the National Public Health Laboratory in Teku, Nepal Korea Friendship Municipality Hospital in Madhyapur Thimi and Dhulikhel Hospital in Dhulikhel from June 26 to August 10.
The samples were collected from both living and dead patients.
Using next generation gene sequencing, the council studied them. The results obtained were compared with the global database and it was found that the strain of SARS-CoV-2 in a majority of the samples matched the strain found in India.
A small number of samples also matched the strains found in Saudi Arabia, Europe and America.
“Based on the results, it appears that COVID-19 spread in Nepal through people arriving from our southern neighbour,” said Dr. Pradip Gyanwali, member secretary of NHRC.
Dr. Gyanwali also stated that the virus spreading in Nepal and in other countries of the globe was different from the one that started in Wuhan, China. This means that the virus has mutated.
Because of the virus’ mutation capabilities, Dr. Gyanwali explained that more research was necessary. “Ideally, we need to conduct sequencing on 10 to 15 samples every month to analyse how the virus is evolving and where the outbreak is heading in the country.”
He also said that no conclusions about the vaccine could be drawn yet.
“It is not necessary to assume that because the virus matches that of India, our vaccine would also need to match the vaccines of India.
The ones currently being developed and rolled out by organisations all across the world can be very suitable for use in our country,” Dr. Gyanwali emphasised, reiterating the need for further studies.
It is to be noted that while speaking in the House of Representatives on May 19, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had said that the virus that “came” from India was seemingly “stronger” than the virus from other places.
However, Dr. Gyanwali cautioned against using terminologies like strong and weak.
“In the initial stages, there were fewer cases and hence, lower mortality. Then, the number of cases increased and so did the mortality. This is related to the progression of the outbreak more than its strong or weak nature,” he said.