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Ramp up sequencing of variants by 10-20 times: Dr Satish Ranjan

Vinson Kurian | | | Updated on: Nov 28, 2021
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Both vaccinated and non-vaccinated must be included, says the molecular immunologist

A leading molecular immunologist based in Germany has said that it is extremely important that “genomic surveillance,” or sequencing of variants should be increased 10 to 20 times since existing and new emerging ones have the capability to cause serious Covid-19 disease.

The sequencing should be carried out in the infected people in both the vaccinated and non-vaccinated groups in order to understand the nature of the variants, says Dr Satish Ranjan, molecular immunologist, who is also Group Leader (Junior) at the Institute of Advanced Materials, Sweden.

India needs to be vigilant

Dr Ranjan wrote to BusinessLine that, in the light of the new circumstances, Indias need to be vigilant against any potential rise in infections. All Covid-19 appropriate measures should be enforced strictly and all social, religious and political gatherings tightly regulated. Under no circumstance should large gatherings be permitted.

India has experienced very high rate of infection during second wave as revealed by a sero-prevalence data as high as 90 per cent at some places. But this natural immunity is likely to decline after 6-8 months as evidenced, especially in Germany. Covid cases in India can again start increasing in next 1-2 months unless people are careful.

‘Iceberg lurking ahead’

Distancing will be the most important factor in limiting the spread of virus as even the existing variants have high transmissible capabilities, Dr Ranjan said.

The situation is comparable to a “iceberg ahead” lurking ahead and the government should put all efforts to turn the ship to safety before it gets too late. It should start enhancing capacity of healthcare facilities at all levels and prepare for contingency on a war-footing.

Europe, especially Germany, has witnessed huge number of cases in children caused mostly by Delta variant. All precautions should be observed in schools and healthcare arrangements enhanced to prevent such an eventuality.

People’s behavior

In light of current global Covid crisis, people should start imposing self-restrictions and avoid all events where large gatherings take place.

"In a worst-case scenario, we must respond properly and not repeat the mistake of choosing self-treatment, a wrong course of treatment or even over-treatment since these can lead to a higher fatality rate," Dr Ranjan says.

Inhaling steam and consuming naturally occurring health products will help reduce the viral load from upper respiratory tract and prevent, to a great extent, lung infections.

Natural immunity may decline

Natural immunity gained post Covid-19 infection is robust and can provide immunity against the current circulating strains for 8-12 months. But immunity study from real world data and study published in Science journal clearly indicate that this immunity start declining after 6-8 months and risks of new infections rise again.

With the emergence of Omicron, a new Variant of Concern, it is very important to understand its nature in terms of increased transmissibility and immune escape abilities. If this mutant has immune escape abilities, it can then escape both natural and vaccine induced immunity and can lead to high number of cases.

Vaccine-induces immunity

Data from the US, Germany and other countries suggest that the existing Delta variant has evolved and is still leading to a huge number of cases. Germany is facing the worst phase of pandemic since the outbreak.

The current vaccination is being carried out by “first generation” vaccines, i.e. vaccine developed against the original SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. But the virus has evolved into many new and more aggressive strains like Delta and Alpha which are still responsible for current huge number of cases across the globe.

Massive numbers of breakthrough cases are now being reported in the UK and in Germany in fully vaccinated individuals mainly because the immunity induced by vaccination is not absolute and declines with time.

New-generation vaccine needed

Vaccinated individuals are getting infected with high viral load in the upper respiratory tract mainly in nostrils. So, these individuals can transmit the virus at very high rate.

The risk of getting infected and spreading the infection is still high among vaccinated individuals but overall hospitalisation is lower indicating how vaccination has reduced disease severity and death of infected individuals.

With the emergence of new variants, there is urgent need of developing new generation vaccines which can act against all variants and provide long lasting protection.

Published on November 28, 2021

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