Two studies on the genome of the coronavirus in India conducted by the country’s top clinical research body and the Department of Bio-Technology suggest that the COVID-19 virus is genetically stable and has shown no major mutation, the Prime Minister’s office said on Saturday.
There had been some concern that any major mutation detected in the novel coronavirus could affect the development of an effective vaccine. However, some recent global studies have said the vaccines currently being developed for COVID-19 should not be affected by these mutations.
Mutation typically refers to the property of a virus to change when it multiplies and the virus may develop some new strains after it replicates. In cases, the new strains tend to be less effective and therefore die out soon, while more powerful strains may lead to faster spread of the virus.
After a review meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the COVID-19 pandemic situation, and vaccine delivery, distribution and administration preparedness, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement that three vaccines are in advanced stages of development in India, out of which two are in Phase II and one is in Phase-III.
“Two pan-India studies on the Genome of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) in India conducted by ICMR and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) suggest that the virus is genetically stable and there is no major mutation in the virus,” the PMO said.
Last month, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had said no significant or drastic mutations have been found in strains of SARS-CoV-2 in India till now.
He had also said the Indian Council of Medical Research or ICMR was conducting large-scale sequencing of nationally representative strains collected over a few months and detailed results on mutations of the virus will be available in early October.
Replying to a query on mutations of SARS-COV2, ICMR Director-General Dr Balram Bhargava had said at a press briefing earlier this week that minor changes called “drifts” may happen from time to time, but major genetic mutations of viruses or “shifts” may happen in about a decade or two.
In this context, the effectiveness of a vaccine will not be determined by minor “drifts”, he had said.
A study by a group of researchers last month found that the coronavirus genomes in India have 5.39 per cent mutation similarity with 72 nations.
The PMO statement also said that a national expert group on vaccine administration have prepared a detailed blueprint for its storage, distribution, and administration in consultation with state governments and all relevant stakeholders.
(With inputs from PTI)