Coronavirus in India originated from EU, Middle East, IISc study finds | Bengaluru News

Jun 9, 2020

BENGALURU: SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes Covid-19, in all likelihood came into India from Europe, Middle East, Oceania and South Asia regions rather than China, which strongly implies it spread through countries most travelled, a report from researchers at Indian Institute of Science (IISc) shows.
The IISc team comprising Prof Kumaravel Somasundaram, Mainak Mondal and Ankita Lawarde of the department of microbiology and cell biology, has published a scientific investigation into the possible origin and spread of the virus in India in Current Science. The team used genomics for their study.
The researchers carried out systematic analysis of genome sequences of virus isolates and inferred the possible source of origin and important genetic variants of the viruses in India.
“The analysis revealed most (129 out of 137) Indian SARS-CoV-2 show more similarity to specific countries,” the article in Current Science reads. “In cluster A, Indian samples show more similarity to viruses found in Oceania, Kuwait and South Asian samples, while in cluster B, samples show more similarity to European, while there are a few numbers of Middle East/South Asian samples. These results indicate that the majority of Indian SARS-CoV-2 originated from Europe, Middle East, South Asia and Oceania regions.”
The remaining Indian isolates identified with samples from China and East Asia. This indicates that these viruses might have been introduced by Indian travellers from China and its neighbouring countries as they show close resemblance to the “ancestral Chinese virus”.
“The probable source of origin of Indian SARS-CoV-2 viruses is countries from Europe and Oceania regions besides Middle East and South Asian regions,” the researchers said. “The possible spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to India through Middle East countries from Europe and Oceania regions cannot be ruled out. Indeed, both A and B clusters contain samples from Middle East countries. In addition, these samples appear to split between I and G clades.”
In the absence of information related to travel/contact history of Indian patients, definite conclusions on the possible source of the origin could not be made. “Thus our result also indicates that there is a close connection between the source of the virus and countries that are most travelled by Indians,” they said.
The study also highlights the power of rapid viral genome sequencing and public data- sharing to improve the detection and management of pandemic diseases such as Covid-19. “It is important to point out that most countries in America, Europe, Oceania and East Asia were quick in supporting advanced scientific studies on the virus and disease process itself in suitable containment facilities with appropriate ethical clearance towards developing novel treatment modalities and preventive vaccines,” the researchers added.
The study also emphasizes the importance of pathogen genomics through phylogenetic analysis to discover viral genetic diversity and understand the viral transmission dynamics with eventual grasp on viral virulence and disease pathogenesis.

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