Punjab has become the first province in Pakistan to acquire a gene sequencing machine that will be helpful to identify new strains of COVID-19.
On Thursday, Chief Minister Usman Buzdar approved funds worth Rs 50 million to place an order for genome sequencing technology for the provincial health department.
Captain (r) Muhammad Usman Younis, secretary of the primary and secondary healthcare department, while in a press statement said, “Punjab will be the first province to buy a gene sequencing machine.”
Gene-sequencing technology is used to determine the entire genomic sequence of an organism by the order of nucleotides in DNA. DNA sequencing methods have greatly accelerated biological and medical research and discovery.
The statement further says that the machine will investigate the type of variants of the virus that is causes deaths in the second wave of the pandemic.
Prior to this, only the Islamabad-based National Institute of Health had a gene sequencing machine and samples collected from positive patients in Punjab had to be sent to the federal laboratory for reading.
Furthermore, scientists have identified three variants of the deadly coronavirus worldwide, which were first detected in England, South Africa and Brazil. The mutations, which are considered to be highly transmissible, have now spread to other countries.
As the World Health Organization said earlier this month that the UK-variant alone has been traced in 50 countries, territories and areas to date. Meanwhile, the Sindh health department detected the new B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant in three passengers from the UK.
In this regard, WHO has urged all the countries to increase genome sequencing efficiency to fight the emerging variants.
However, Punjab has not registered any new variant of the Covid-19 case yet, but this development marks a significant step forward for the province’s Covid-19 strategy.