Karnataka has accounted for almost 10 per cent of the total samples sent to government-approved labs for genome sequencing across the country between July 1 and December 5, the state health department said on Thursday.
Karnataka health minister Dr K Sudhakar said that the state has sent 2,149 samples for sequencing to Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) laboratories across India. According to the INSACOG data, around 21,669 samples were sent for genome sequencing from all states between July 1 and December 5 this year.
Sudhakar further said that if the number of samples sent for sequencing to private labs during the same period was added, the total samples from the state stand at 6,279. Around 4,124 samples collected from various BBMP wards in Bengaluru were sent for sequencing to a private facility Strand Life Sequences laboratory, he added.
Talking about the samples of the contacts of the two patients who tested positive for Omicron, Sudhakar said their genomic sequence report is yet to arrive. “New infections have been discovered in other states. The primary and secondary contacts of the infected, too, are found to have no problems or symptoms. The infected are being treated at the Bowring Hospital. Those who came in contact with the ‘Omicron’ infected have received both vaccine doses,” Dr Sudhakar said.
As of now, labs at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) are the only two laboratories in Karnataka that have been approved by INSACOG to conduct genomic sequencing. Since the Union government has ordered state governments to send sequencing samples only to government-approved labs, the pressure is expected to mount on NCBS and NIMHANS.
Karnataka chief minister Bommai said on Wednesday that foreseeing an increase in Covid-19 cases, the government had already initiated action to establish genome sequencing labs in the state, and the state health secretary Anil Kumar has been instructed to look into the needs of procuring the necessary equipment and experts for the purpose.
During the second wave of Covid-19, the state government had said six genome sequencing labs were being set up at Bengaluru, Mysuru, Shivamogga, Hubballi, Mangaluru and Vijayapura. “We have taken measures to set up genomic sequencing labs. It requires expert facilities and lab equipment. Instructions have been given to the Health Secretary in this regard,” Bommai said in response to a question on increasing the number of genomic sequencing labs in the state on Wednesday.
An official of the health department, who didn’t want to be named, said that the government would continue to use the private labs and the labs under construction to increase sequencing in the state, and for higher reference, samples are also being sent to NCBS or NIMHANS.
Two cases of Omicron infections were detected in the state last week. One is a South African national who has left the country after testing negative, while the other is a local person, a doctor with no travel history. The second patient who got a reinfection of Covid-19, is at a government hospital.