Experts find DNA mutation in local virus

From Zeeshan Mirza

KARACHI: A team of researchers in Pakistan, led by Dow University of Health Sciences Vice Chancellor Professor Mohammad Saeed Quraishy, think that the genetic make up of the novel coronavirus may alter in a locally transmitted case.
The finding is not final as researchers are still studying the genome sequence of the virus and the research, being conducted in coordination with the International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences, is in its early stages. However, while examining the DNA structure of the virus contracted locally by a young boy, the researchers observed that the sequencing had slight mutations from the one that originated in Wuhan, China.
The patient, whose sample was being examined, had contracted the virus locally from a person who was infected in Saudi Arabia. According to data, 15 people of the same family had contracted the disease from the same person, which indicates that the local spread of the virus is extremely fast.
The team has yet to analyse further samples of the virus that arrived from other countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Syria, Iran, Iraq and other Gulf states. The study of the virus’ genome sequence is being hailed by experts as an important step towards developing a vaccine and treatment modalities.
The virus sample being studied by the research team was detected in the BSL-3 virology lab in Dow University, which is one of the first laboratories in Pakistan to conduct PCR testing for Covid-19. The lab is conducting free tests for the coronavirus.
Different hospitals across Punjab have started administering antimalarial drugs after they showed promising effects on the patients who recovered from coronavirus, according to Chief Executive Officer Mayo Hospital Dr Asad Aslam. Recently, the US drug authority had approved limited, emergency-based use of two antimalarial drugs, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, for treating coronavirus patients.
According to Dr Aslam, in the last 15 days, eight coronavirus patients have recovered after being administered the drugs at Mayo Hospital, indicating encouraging results. The doctor told that after China, now the hospitals in Punjab are also benefiting from the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.
Meanwhile, a Punjab government spokesman said that the government has acquired more than 50,000 antimalarial tablets.
Punjab, has so far, witnessed 740 coronavirus cases, with nine deaths.
It is pertinent to mention that soon after the drugs gained limelight, it vanished from medical stores across the country, despite them not being validated through definitive clinical trials.
The drugs had also gained open appreciation from US President Donald Trump.
According to a report, many researchers including Anthony Fauci, the United States' leading infectious disease expert, have urged the public to remain cautious until larger clinical trials validate smaller studies. Chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are synthetic forms of quinine, which is found in the barks of cinchona trees of Latin America and has been used to treat malaria for centuries. Some in the wider scientific community have cautioned more research is needed to prove that they really work and are safe for COVID-19.