Delhi’s international airport will get its first genome sequencing laboratory today.

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Delhi’s international airport will get its first genome sequencing laboratory today.

A first of its kind genome sequencing laboratory is being launched at the New Delhi international airport for testing samples of all travellers arriving into the country who test positive for Coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

The positive samples will be genome sequenced to identify and contain the new mutant variant of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, detected in UK and other countries.

Dr Vinod Paul, member (health) Niti Aayog and chairman, national expert group on vaccine administration for Covid-19 (NEGVAC) will inaugurate the laboratory on Thursday morning, in the presence of Dr Anurag Agrawal, director, CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Ajay Singh, chairman and managing director, SpiceJet, and Avani Singh, chief executive officer, SpiceHealth.

India had started genome sequencing of Covid-19 positive samples of UK returnees soon after the flights from UK were suspended on December 23, 2020. The total number of persons found to be positive with the new UK variant genome stands at 102 as on Wednesday.

India has begun sequencing the genes of at least 5% of all Covid-19 positive samples in an attempt to better track mutations in the Sars-CoV-2 virus.

To do this, the government has set up a genomic surveillance consortium under the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Ten highly advanced labs in reputed institutes from across the country have been designated to perform genome sequencing of samples.

The laboratory network– Indian Sars-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (Insacog) was specifically created for this purpose last month.

The labs are NIMHANS, Bengaluru, CCMB, Hyderabad, NIV, Pune, IGIB, Delhi, NCDC, New Delhi, NCBG, Kolkata, NCBS, InSTEM, Bengaluru, CDFD Hyderabad, ILS Bhubaneswar, and NCCS Pune.

The presence of the new UK variant has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore, so far.