Punjab: Genome sequencing takes a step back as cases drop across Punjab | Chandigarh News

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Chandigarh: As Punjab goes through a lull in the ongoing pandemic, genomic sequencing – a key part of public health efforts – has taken a back seat, with the state-run lab not examining any samples over the course of of the last few weeks. Despite a sustained decline in the number of new Covid-19 cases, the central government has been emphasizing compliance with testing, surveillance and containment-based restrictions strategies.
Several countries are reeling from an intense wave fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant of the virus and experts have spoken of the possible fourth wave of the infection hitting India in the middle of the year. The Punjab Whole Genome Sequencing Laboratory in Patiala can analyze 96 samples at one time and the last batch was processed about three weeks ago. According to health officials, there are not enough samples at this time needed to run a batch.
Punjab Covid-19 Nodal Officer Dr Rakesh Bhaskar attributed this to a drop in the number of new cases and most of the positive samples having a Cycle Threshold (CT) value above 25. He explained that only samples with CT value less than 25 are accepted for genome sequencing while others are rejected. The CT value refers to the number of cycles after which the virus can be detected.
“Genomic sequencing will resume as soon as we have a sufficient number of samples to examine in one batch,” said Dr Bhaskar, who said Omicron had been found in most samples examined from January. . Prior to setting up its laboratory at the Government Medical College in Patiala, the state was sending positive samples to the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) in Delhi, which took more than a month to provide confirmation of new variants, hampering containment measures.
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