What is genome sequencing? How can it help combat COVID-19
Taking cognizance of a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases in China, Japan, the United States, Brazil, and the Republic of Korea, the Union health ministry directed all states on Tuesday to conduct genome sequencing of positive cases to check for any new variant. After this news, the term 'genome sequencing' is being thrown around in the media a lot. Let's understand it in detail.
Government directed all states to conduct genome sequencing
In what ways is data extracted from genome sequencing helpful?
Scientists use genome sequencing to detect, investigate, monitor, and control viruses. They use it to understand how people become exposed to viruses and how these are geographically distributed. This process of sequencing the genome also helps trace the source and transmission of outbreaks. The evolution of viruses such as the development of drug resistance can be learned too.
What is genomic sequencing?
A genome is the complete genetic material of an organism. It is like an instruction manual that contains details about the makeup of the organism. Genome sequencing or Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) is a technique that analyses the genetic code of an organism. It helps scientists find the exact location in the virus where a mutation has taken place.
What is the purpose of genome sequencing?
As a virus passes from human to human, it undergoes mutation. Mutations are slight changes in the genetic code of an organism that occurs during the duplication process. These mutations can make the virus more transmissible or lethal. So, it becomes important to keep a track of the genomic sequencing. Different variants can have different tendencies and may require new strategies to fight.
What processes does genome sequencing involves?
After the collected coronavirus test swab turns out positive, it is sent to sequencing labs. Scientists then break open the virus's cells, isolate the genetic material in the form of RNA from it, convert it into DNA, and analyze it. Scientists then determine the sequence of the genome for that virus and compare it with previous strains to ascertain the possibility of anything new.
Why is genome sequencing important?
The information churned out from genome sequencing has valuable data. Scientists use this data to characterize the virus, estimate a particular variant's prevalence in a population, and evaluate how effective medical treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies, are against variants. This data is also used in investigating the spread of a virus in outbreaks. Sequencing the genome is an important step toward understanding it.