Nizwa University study in Oman detect rare strain of coronavirus

Oman Wednesday 03/February/2021 21:21 PM
By: Times News Service
Nizwa University study in Oman detect rare strain of coronavirus

Muscat: A rare strain of COVID-19 has been detected in Oman, thanks to efforts taken to map the genetic sequences of variants in the country.

The project, which was jointly undertaken by the University of Nizwa and the Ministry of Health, looked at 94 samples of the virus taken from patients in the country. Its results have now been published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.

P323L is the most common mutation of the virus, found in 94.7 per cent of samples studied, followed by the D614G spike protein mutation, present in 92.6 per cent. A unique mutation, I280V, was first reported in Oman and was associated with a rare lineage, B.1.113, found in only 10.6 per cent of samples.

“The study revealed a good connection between genetic and epidemiological data in the country,” said Dr Ahmed Sulaiman Al Harrasi, the founder of the Natural and Medical Sciences Research Centre, which conducted this study on behalf of the University of Nizwa. “Oman’s robust surveillance system has been very efficient in guiding outbreak investigation processes in the country

“The study illustrates the future importance of molecular epidemiology in leading the national response to outbreaks and pandemics,” he added. “We are currently continuing our collaboration with the Ministry of Health by sequencing the coronavirus from infected healthcare workers, as well as patients who’ve been infected more than once.”

Headed by Al Harasi, the research team from the University of Nizwa included Dr Abdulataif Khan, Dr Sajad Asef, Dr Majed Al Salmani, and Ahmed Al Rawahi. Costs to cover expenses related to the project were received through a grant from the University of Nizwa.

The Ministry of Health, which conducted the study through its Central Public Health Laboratories, and the Epidemiological Surveillance Department of the Directorate General of Diseases and Control, was represented by Dr Saif Salim Al Abri, Dr Samira Hamad Al Mahrooqi, Dr Amina Khalfan Al Jardani, Dr Samiha Rashid Al Kharousi, Dr Hanan Salim Al Kindi, and Dr Adil Saeed Al Wahaibi.

“The number of full-genome sequences of coronavirus samples that have been successfully deposited by the Sultanate in the global database (GISAID) has reached 203,” said the ministry in a statement. “This reflects the potential of qualified Omanis in the capacity, as well the availability of the most advanced techniques in gene sequencing in the country.”

“Samples were selected based on epidemiological characteristics that represent various cluster types, geographical location, and nationality,” said the report. “The epidemiological investigation was conducted by public health teams throughout the country, who fed data into a national electronic database.”

“All confirmed cases underwent epidemiological investigations and included the information of each patient’s demography (age, gender, residency, and nationality), and epidemiology (source of infection if known, date of onset, whether a primary or secondary case, and designation of infection (cluster or sporadic),” it added.

The study selected patients based on a number of considerations, including age group, nationalities, severity of illness, infection date, places of travel and residence, and others.

The research team included molecular biologists, epidemiologists, and bioinformaticians from the NMSRC and the Ministry of Health.