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Covid-19: UK, US urged to acknowledge Bangladesh's contribution to vaccine innovation

  • Published at 05:10 pm July 19th, 2020

Bangladesh has completed genome sequencing of 222 Sars-CoV-2 samples at different laboratories, the second highest in South Asia, and is set to submit at least 300 reports in total

Although Covid-19 vaccine innovators are expected to consider all genome sequences submitted by different countries, the Bangladesh government has separately requested Oxford University of the UK and two biotechnology companies in the United States to consider the country’s genome sequences in their Covid-19 vaccine innovation.

Bangladesh has already completed genome sequencing of 222 Sars-CoV-2 samples at different laboratories, the second highest in South Asia. 

“The genome sequencing will be valuable in the development of a vaccine for the disease. So, we have reached out to institutions in the UK and US to consider the genome sequences of Bangladesh in their vaccine innovation process. In reply, they have asked for a submission of at least 300 completed genome sequences as it will help them to innovate specific drugs for Bangladesh,” Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman said.

The minister made the statement while speaking at a press conference at Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) in Dhaka on Sunday.

“Though they (biotechnology companies) will consider all the genome sequences submitted by the different countries in GISAID, a common platform to innovate universal drugs, we communicated with them separately for Bangladesh,” he added.

The minister also added: “Scientists at BCSIR will alone recode genome sequencing of 300 samples from Covid-19 patient from different parts of the country in the first phase. All together, the number will be more than 300 as some other institutions are also working on it.” 

According to the BCSIR, a total of 78 organizations or institutions have been working to develop a vaccine for coronavirus. Among them, 37 institutions have already made minimum progress. Oxford University, two biotechnology laboratories in the USA, and three Chinese research teams have completed their initial trials. 

222 genome sequences decoded

Bangladesh has completed genome sequencing of 222 Sars-CoV-2 samples at different laboratories, which is said to be the second highest in South Asia. 

Of the 222, BCSIR has done 173, which is 78% of total genome sequences of Bangladesh, while the rest were done by various other research organizations.

“In our first phase, we will decode 300 genome sequences and continue further,” said Salim Khan, in-charge of Genomic Research Laboratory at BCSIR. 

On May 30, BCSIR announced decoding the genome of coronavirus samples collected from three local patients, which strongly indicated that the virus arrived in Bangladesh from Europe.

Earlier on Saturday, Dr Salim Khan told the Dhaka Tribune that: “After completing the genome sequencing of 173 samples, we have found that the virus is also similar to those of China and the United States, apart from European ones.”

According to the BCSIR, the 173 samples were collected from people of different age groups living in different areas of the country, including 62 from Dhaka and 24 from Chittagong. 

The detailed information of the sequencing is available via the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) website database.

“As of July 17, a total of 66,875 genome sequencing has been completed, as reported by the International Gene Bank. India’s contribution is 1,578, while Bangladesh has done 222,” Salim added.

A team from Child Health Research Foundation (CHRF) was the first in Bangladesh to complete the genome sequence for the novel coronavirus. 

A team of eight researchers, led by microbiologist Dr Samir Kumar Saha and his daughter Dr Senjuti Saha, successfully completed the sequencing earlier in May.

Apart from the BCSIR and CHRF, Dhaka University, Bangladesh Jute Research Institute, Bangladesh Institute of Tropical and Infectious Disease (BITID), National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Centre, Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Science University (CVASU), DNA Solution, National Institute of Biotechnology, AKM Biomed, and ICDDR’B also contributed to decoding of the genome sequence.

Output of BCSIR research

According to a research by BCSIR, coronavirus has already undergone 590 changes in its genomic level and more than 273 changes in its protein level in Bangladesh. 

The research also said that in 95% of these cases, D614G coronavirus have been detected in the strain of sequencing, which is the main cause of infection in Bangladesh.

BCSIR researchers also detected some pathogens along with coronavirus in the samples. Multi-drug resistance was also detected among some samples so far. 

“Usually, some similar elements are found in the samples which reside at the respiratory channel of humans. However, once the patients get a cure, these elements become infectious and cause infection for the second time. But we did not get such elements from our sample, which is a positive sign,” said Prof AKM Shamsuzzaman, head of the National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Center.   

 “We are working for more details in order to publish the research output in an international journal,” said Salim Khan. 

Among others, Science and Technology Ministry Senior Secretary Anwar Hossain and BCSIR chairman (acting) Showkat Ali also present at the press briefing. 

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