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COVID-19: Mumbai gets its first genome sequencing lab

The lab was inaugurated virtually by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Another project- Spinraza therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in children was also launched at the T. N. Medical College & BYL Nair Charitable Hospital, one of the premier medical institutes in the city as part of its centenary celebrations.

August 04, 2021 / 02:59 PM IST
The panel also recommended granting permission to Bharat Biotech for carrying out a study on the interchangeability of its Covaxin and the under-trial adenoviral intranasal vaccine candidate BBV154. (Image Source: Reuters/Jose Cabezas)

The panel also recommended granting permission to Bharat Biotech for carrying out a study on the interchangeability of its Covaxin and the under-trial adenoviral intranasal vaccine candidate BBV154. (Image Source: Reuters/Jose Cabezas)

Mumbai's first genome sequencing laboratory at civic-run Nair Hospital will offer the city an added advantage in the battle against coronavirus as the new facility can analyse a large number of samples in a short period and also identify mutants, something that will be especially useful in hotspot areas, the hospital said on Wednesday.

The lab was inaugurated virtually by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Another project- Spinraza therapy for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) in children was also launched at the T. N. Medical College & BYL Nair Charitable Hospital, one of the premier medical institutes in the city as part of its centenary celebrations.

Speaking after the virtual inauguration, Thackeray said Nair Hospital, which was set up 100 years ago during the Spanish flu pandemic, is preparing to cater to the health of citizens for another century.

He hailed the hospital for setting up new facilities without the help of the state government or municipal corporation of Mumbai. "The hospital was set up 100 years ago with the help of philanthropists and today as well, donors have come forward. This is the tradition," the CM said.

Established on September 4, 1921, Nair Hospital provides extensive training courses in various medical and allied branches including super-speciality courses.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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"This institute has provided the society with medical stalwarts who have rendered selfless healthcare services for decades and we look forward to our future generation to continue this glorious culture and tradition," a statement issued by the hospital said.

Next-generation genome sequencing (NGS) is a method of characterisation of pathogens. This technology is used to determine the order of nucleotides in entire genomes or targeted regions of RNA or DNA, which helps in understanding differences between two strains of the virus, thereby identifying mutants, it said.

"Specialty of NGS is a large number of samples can be processed in a short period at high speed. In the current pandemic, this test has many benefits especially in hotspots, and in unique clinical presentations. Identification of mutants and variants in the virus can be established enabling public health policy decisions," the hospital said.

Every batch for testing will comprise 384 samples and results will be declared in four days. Spinraza Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) encompasses a group of inherited progressive, degenerative neuro-muscular disorders, in which children die at a young age due to respiratory failure or they are wheelchair-bound for a lifetime, the statement said.

It said California-based nonprofit NGO, Direct Relief, is providing the new drug Nusinersen (Spinraza) for treatment of SMA under the Spinraza Individual Patient Humanitarian Access Program (SIPHAP).

"An independent, international Medical Expert Committee (MEC) of SMA specialists selected 17 most eligible candidates for Spinraza. The drug will be imported by August for administering it to patients. Seven doses are given in the first year of the treatment, followed by three doses every year after, for the rest of the patient's life.

"All injections will be administered by the intrathecal route. At present, a single dose of injection of Spinraza costs Rs 87 lakh. The total annual cost of the therapy for one patient is nearly Rs 6 crore in the first year and nearly rs 3.2 crore in subsequent years. Once selected the patient will receive this therapy lifelong," it said.

Dr AL Nair, after whom the road on which the hospital is situated, had donated two acres of his land for the hospital campus in the 20th century.

"In 1925, Dr Nair also helped set up a well-equipped hospital which he named after his mother Bai Yamunabai Laxman Nair. He also donated funds to run the hospital. Much later, MN Desai, popularly known as Topiwala Desai, made a generous contribution of Rs 5 lakh to the college – which was then named after him as the Topiwala National Medical College," the hospital said.

In March 2020, the Nair hospital became the first teaching hospital to become a dedicated COVID-19 Hospital. "Over the pandemic, we have admitted more than 18,000 patients, delivered more than 1,000 COVID mothers while more than a lakh have been vaccinated," the statement said.

Mumbai on Tuesday reported 288 new cases of COVID-19, taking the total to 7,35,659, and three more fatalities, which raised the toll to 15,911, as per the city civic body.

(With PTI inputs)
Moneycontrol News
first published: Aug 4, 2021 02:59 pm

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