ISLAMABAD - The Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) top scientist in collaboration with National Institute of Health (NIH) and Chinese scientists have reported the largest genomic and epidemiological data of coronavirus COVID-19 in the country.
The data reveals initial introductions and transmission of the virus in Pakistan and has identified 29 over-represented mutations/variations in Pakistani samples of coronavirus.
A statement issued by QAU said that Dr. Amir Ali Abbasi, Professor, and Chairperson at National Center for Bioinformatics, QAU, in collaborations with researchers from NIH, and National Genomics Data Center, Beijing Institute of Genomics, CAS/ China National Center for Bioinformation has recently reported the largest genomic and epidemiological data of coronavirus in Pakistan that includes the full-length high-quality genome sequences of more than 150 coronavirus samples from Pakistan. This study was recently published in the highly prestigious international journal Genomics, Proteomics & Bioinformatics with the title “Genomic Epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 in Pakistan.”
Dr. Amir Ali Abbasi explained mutations are tiny errors in the genetic code that occur during the spread of the virus. Principal investigator of this study Prof. Dr. Yiming Bao who is the Director of National Genomics Data Center, Beijing further added, “While some mutations in genomes of coronavirus are harmless, others can bring about such changes in the virus that can enhance its transmissibility and infectivity and thus making it more deadly, as in the case of Indian, UK and South African variants of COVID-19.”
The genomic epidemiology of coronavirus in Pakistan has revealed international introductions of COVID-19 in Pakistan from 28 countries and also identified five distinctive spreading clusters during the first wave of pandemic. Among them, the largest cluster was introduced possibly from the USA, France, Portugal, Sweden, Oman, and Qatar, which were consistent with the epidemiological investigations. No progenies of any of these 150 viruses have been found outside of Pakistan, most likely due to the non-pharmacological intervention, such as travel restrictions, etc. to control the flow of virus outside our country.
This recent study by the research team and collaborators of Dr. Amir could provide guidance for an effective strategy for disease control and spread. “So, we, evolutionary biologists know that in order to check the virulence of the virus and keep its spread under control it is important to keep a track of virus evolution through massive genome sequencing initiatives,” said Prof. Dr. Amir Ali Abbasi.
According to Dr. Amir, their ongoing work on coronavirus genome sequencing would further clarify the genomic epidemiology of COVID-19 in Pakistan.