Ebola, Zika, HIV, H1N1, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV), and now COVID-19 Outbreak are some of the viruses that the world had faced at regular intervals in recent time. It seems microbes, like viruses and bacteria, have an upper hand against the humankind.
Microbes are so successful because they can spread rapidly from human to human and has a lower rate of mortality.
One thing that must be noted that above mentioned virus induced diseases all had jumped from animal reservoirs to humans.
Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) belong to coronavirus family.
Though we have been able to win wars against the viruses, but these wins had always at a greater cost. In the past, we had to pay heavily in terms of human lives, loss of livelihoods, economic growth etc.
The ongoing war against SARS-CoV2 is too going to be a very costly affair.
Dealing with a New Viral Outbreak
- The first step in dealing with any new viral outbreak is to be able to accurately test, detect and track the spread of the virus, and isolate the infected persons to stop further spread.
- Acquire complete knowledge of Genetic information of the virus.
- We can’t move towards developing a Specific diagnostic test without having a Genetic information of the virus.
- RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription Time Polymerase Chain Reaction) is considered as the most reliable and widely-used test to detect the viral RNA of SARS-CoV2.
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What is reverse transcription – polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR)
The reverse transcription – polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is a sensitive technique for the quantification of steady-state mRNA levels, particularly in samples with limited quantities of extracted RNA, or for analysis of low-level transcripts. The procedure amplifies defined mRNA transcripts by taking advantage of retroviral enzymes with reverse transcriptase (RT) activity, coupled to PCR. The resultant PCR product concentration is directly proportional to the initial starting quantity of mRNA, therefore allowing quantification of gene expression by incorporation of a fluorescence detector for the appropriate amplicons.
The testing kits contain all chemicals and materials required for carrying out the RT-PCR based tests, which are performed by government-approved laboratories such as India’s National Institute of Virology.
National Institute of Virology
The National Institute of Virology, Pune is an Indian virology research institute, and one of the translational science cells part of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). It was previously known as ‘Virus Research Center’ and was founded in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation. It has been designated as a WHO H5 reference laboratory for SE Asia region.
The Virus Research Center (VRC), Pune came into existence in 1952 under the joint auspices of the ICMR and the Rockefeller Foundation, as a part of the global programme of investigations on the arthropod-borne group of viruses. In view of its expanded scope and activities, the VRC was re-designated as the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in 1978.
National Institute of Virology (NIV) has succeeded in isolating the deadly coronavirus from an affected patient. According to reports, it has a 99.98% match with the virus in China’s Wuhan. This significant medical breakthrough will help India in developing a vaccine for the deadly Coronavirus.
This is a quick test which can be performed without taking a help from experts. This test even does nt require PCR machine. It can be done at multiple locations in about half an hour.
CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is highly specific in directly detecting viral RNA and confirming the presence or absence of the virus.
CRISPER tests are being validated and readied for approval. Two companies, separately founded by the two scientists who discovered the CRISPR technique, have also announced that they are ready with their CRISPR-based test for validation and approval.
What Is CRISPR?
CRISPR technology is a simple yet powerful tool for editing genomes. It allows researchers to easily alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. Its many potential applications include correcting genetic defects, treating and preventing the spread of diseases and improving crops. However, its promise also raises ethical concerns.
In popular usage, “CRISPR” (pronounced “crisper”) is shorthand for “CRISPR-Cas9.” CRISPRs are specialized stretches of DNA. The protein Cas9 (or “CRISPR-associated”) is an enzyme that acts like a pair of molecular scissors, capable of cutting strands of DNA.
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More Steps Needed To Contain COVID-19 Outbreak
- RT-PCR and CRISPER based tests need to be scaled up for testing as many individuals as possible.
- India is planning to carry out serological tests to examine the actual spread of the disease in different parts of the country.
- India has to ensure that large-scale testing is implemented at the earliest in as many locations as possible.
- Meanwhile, hopefully, efficient drugs therapies and efficacious vaccines against COVID-19 will also be discovered soon.