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Bangladeshi researchers decode the Sars-Cov-2 genome sequence

  • Published at 05:05 pm May 13th, 2020
File photo of The team who helped the research sequencing. From left Md Saiful Islam Sajib, Dr Senjuti Saha and Roy Malakar Collected

Dr Samir and Senjuti Saha identified 9 new mutations in the virus present in Bangladesh

Eight researchers at the Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF) led by Dr Senjuti Saha and her father, eminent microbiologist Dr Samir Kumar Saha completed the genome sequence for the novel coronavirus, Sars-Cov2 for the first time in Bangladesh, which will help us trace the origins of the infections in the country.

This research was conducted by the initiative of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Chan Zuckerberg Biohub.

“CHRF is trying to find which other countries share the same genome as ours,” said Dr Samir Saha, while the research lead Dr Senjuti Saha says there is a chance the virus here is similar to the one found in Wuhan, China.

Dr Samir and Senjuti Saha identified 9 new mutations in the virus present in Bangladesh.

“So far we have submitted 9 genome sequences to the GISAID Global Initiative. They will check and approve the data so that we can compare it with global data,” Said Dr Samir.

“We plan to test 80 to 100 samples to check for a mutation in the genome code,” Dr Senjuti Saha said.

A total of 24,000 genome sequences of Sar-Cov2 has been decoded so far, according to GISAD.

Scientists from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention first decoded the virus’s genome on January 10 - the data has since been shared around the world to help see the variations in mutilations and better understand how to find a cure and eventually find a vaccine for the infamously tricky coronavirus.

The Sars-Cov2 is an RNA virus also known as retroviruses. Other RNA viruses are hepatitis viruses and HIV. They operate by first converting their RNA into DNA when they enter a host cell.

Retroviruses, which use the host's biochemical system to reproduce, are more difficult to treat. Treatment for these viruses typically involves drugs that inhibit the activity of reverse transcriptase, the enzyme that converts retroviral RNA into DNA. Often, patients with retroviral infections such as HIV take a cocktail of many different types of drugs, each of which targets a different phase in the viral life cycle.

Dr Saha’s research is a small step closer to finding a drug and vaccine for Sars-Cov2, as data obtained from this sequencing will also allow the identification of new targets for diagnosis and treatment.

IEDCR Principal Scientific Officer Dr ASM Alamgir says his organization will also try to sequence the virus’s genome.

It is a very good initiative to sequence the genome in the country. IEDCR and other organizations are also trying to decode the genome,” said IEDCR chief scientific officer SM Alamgir.

“So far we know that there are some similarities with the genetic code of the virus found in Taiwan, Russia, the UK and Sweden. A total number of 380 mutations has been found worldwide but Covid-19 mutation is slower in our country.

“There has been evidence of mutation in 9 areas across the country so far, but it is not very important. If we can decode according to our infection time frame from the first infection till now, then we will get a local mutation timeframe in our country,” he added.

Other research facilities have also been working to sequence the virus’s genome. “Some of our scientists and researchers are in constant contact with international teams who are working on finding a vaccine,” said SM Alamgir, chief scientific officer at IEDCR.

“A number of research institutions have submitted protocols to explore vaccines in Bangladesh,” he added.

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