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Jharkhand wants genome sequencing machine for RIMS

State health minister promises to procure one to help state identify new coronavirus variants
Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences, Ranchi

Our Correspondent   |   Ranchi   |   Published 01.12.21, 05:22 PM

Jharkhand health minister Banna Gupta has promised to  procure a genome sequencing machine for Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in a bid to strengthen the health infrastructure in the state in the wake of the new Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.

“We will procure a Genome Sequencing Machine very soon. Given the situation regarding this new Omicron variant, it is imperative to have the infrastructure for detecting new variants of coronavirus in the state itself,” Gupta said.

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So far, Jharkhand sends positive RT PCR samples to Institute of Life Sciences (ILS) in Bhubaneswar for whole genome sequencing, the only process to identify variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While the state regularly sends samples from sentinel sites to Bhubaneswar for genome sequencing, the process is time-consuming, which may prove to be a stumbling block in ensuring safety of residents from new strains of the novel coronavirus, health officials said.

Gupta, who recently appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to cancel all international flights from Omicron-affected countries, has also given his nod for recruitment of healthcare workers and technical staff for conducting genome sequencing at RIMS, sources from the minister’s office said.

“As per latest guidelines issued in the wake of the Omicron variant, we are regularly sending samples for genome sequencing to Bhubaneswar. This process will become easier and less time-consuming if we have a genome sequencing machine in Ranchi itself,” said a RIMS official who recently attended a meeting chaired by the health minister here.

Jharkhand had sent a proposal for procurement of a genome sequencing machine to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare back in March. However, the proposal was never approved.

Assuring the procurement of a genome sequencing machine, Gupta has also directed the administration at RIMS to start a department of genome studies, which will make Jharkhand self-sufficient in fighting cases of viral diseases to a large extent in future.

Even though the active caseload of Covid-19 has not seen a significant rise in Jharkhand after the festive season, Gupta has admitted that the Delta and Delta Plus variants wreaked havoc on Jharkhand during the second wave of the pandemic, and the state could not afford to let its guard down at a time when a new, more transmissible variant has emerged.



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