Muscat: A study conducted by the Ministry of Health and Nizwa University to discover the full genome sequence of the SARS CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 could be used to help create medicines and vaccines to fight the disease.
The project aimed at understanding the relationship among the prevalent strains in the Sultanate and connecting them with the epidemiological data identified by the MOH’s Epidemiological Surveillance teams during the pandemic, in addition to monitoring the possibility of genotyping conversion in virus strains and their effect on the change of the virus’ behaviour and intensity.
Moreover, identifying the prevalent strains in the Sultanate and detecting mutations would facilitate the process of selecting the appropriate vaccine and antiretroviral drugs, in addition to allowing the use of computational biology to search for appropriate drugs and their compatibility with the targeted link points in the virus.
The study included 94 samples from registered cases of COVID-19 in the Sultanate, from different places that experienced prevalence of the disease, taking into consideration many variables related to age group, nationality, the severity of illness, infection date, and the places of travel and residence, among others. This has contributed in submitting enriching findings and concluding a clear abstract.
The joint study featured researchers from the ministry’s Central Public Health Laboratories, and the Epidemiological Surveillance Department of the Directorate General of Disease Control and Surveillance, and the Natural and Medical Sciences Centre at Nizwa University.
The research team had read and analysed the genome sequencing of the samples, utilising state-of-art techniques available at the genome lab at Nizwa University. The full-genome sequencing of the study’s samples were deposited in the global database (GISAID), which was set up to provide open access to COVID developments for researchers worldwide, and help them understand how the virus evolves and spreads in the community, helping them confirm the various sources of infection.
The project observed considerable compatibility between the virus’ genome sequencing and the epidemiological data of prevalent cases. The study found that the GR strain, which is currently the most widespread strain in the world, is also the widespread strain in the Sultanate. The team also observed that along with the GR strain, there are other strains with a lower prevalence rate (such as GH, O, and V).
The research findings proved that this widespread strain had been modified, with a D614G mutation level of more than 90 percent. Studies have shown that this mutation is responsible for accelerating disease spread and infection.
These findings will be published in a detailed scientific paper in a scientific journal after academic evaluation. Funding for the project came from Nizwa University.
Headed by Dr Saif Salim Al Abri, the team of researchers from the Ministry of Health (MOH) Central Public Health Laboratories and the Epidemiological Surveillance Centre of the Directorate General of Diseases Control and Surveillance included 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.
Headed by Prof Ahmed Al Harasi, the research team from the University of Nizwa consists of Dr Abdul Latif Khan, Dr Sajad Asef, Dr Majed Al Salmani, and Ahmed Al Rawahi
Oman deposited 203 full genome sequence samples of the SARS CoV-2 virus samples in the global database (GISAID), which reflects the research potential of qualified Omanis working in their capacity, as well the availability in the Sultanate of the most advanced techniques in gene sequencing.