Bioinformatically speaking, does India have hope against COVID-19? Study the full analysis at Bioinformatics India.
Computational biology has recently gained a lot of significance when it comes to prediction of functionality, structural stability or toxicity of a majority of bioparticles. Amid the pandemic of Coronavirus disease caused by severe acute respiratory coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2), which has made its not so subtle mark in the history of the scientific community, these in silico studies have become the need of the hour.
A study published in a non-peer-reviewed journal by Translational Bioinformatics group, International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), New Delhi, India performed an integrated sequence-based analysis of SARS-CoV2 genome using bioinformatics tools from different geographical locations namely- India, Italy, USA, Nepal used as a query to compare with Wuhan SARS-CoV2 genome to identify its unique features.
A unique mutation in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the surface spike glycoprotein (the region from where the virus enters the normal cells) in the Indian SARS-CoV2, absent in other strains was studied.
Antiviral host micro RNAs (miRNA) have been said to play a role in controlling viral pathogenesis. Intriguingly, the analysis revealed that there is only a single host miRNA i.e. the hsa-miR-27b, apart from the 9 identified miRNAs predicted to specifically target SARS-CoV2 genes, that uniquely target the Indian SARS-CoV2.
This hsa-miR-27b has been linked to targeting host INF-gamma signaling pathways in certain viral infections. Based on studies done on SARS-CoV, INF beta, as well as gamma, have shown to inhibit the replication of severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus.
Even if this study has a very optimistic presentation, it has only been done using the genome of a single COVID-19 positive Indian. Further work and research are in progress and we still have a long way to go thus it’s too early to comment on whether the Indian COVID strain is weaker or if it is less virulent in Indians.
When you think about it, out of the 260 people, Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor came in contact with, approximately 63 people were tested negative for COVID-19, the rest either yet to be screened or the results pending.
Moreover, the 23 Italian tourists who visited six districts of Rajasthan from 21st to 28th February 2020 came in contact with about 215 people. 93 swab samples were taken out of which 51 suspected patients were tested negative whereas reports of 41 are awaited.
This shows there might be relatively low contact transmission rates of COVID-19 between Indians.
Additionally, in a paper published in a non-peer-reviewed repository, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) states that about 90% of COVID-19 transmissions have occurred in regions that had temperatures between 3 to 17 degrees Celsius and relatively low humidity (Example Europe). In contrast, fewer than 6% of transmissions occurred in regions having a temperature above 18 degrees Celsius. The authors said the reduction in the number of cases, if at all, may happen at temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius. This analysis was done for the period, January 20 to March 21, 2020.
Marc Lipsitch, the director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the US wrote, “it is not reasonable to expect these declines to slow transmission enough to make a dent” concerning the modest decline of COVID-19 contagiousness in a warmer climate.
With the cases in India rising to 1251 and fast approaching Indian summers accompanied by predictions of temperatures rising well above 35 degree Celsius in most of the regions, we can only hope we can attain some form of stability in this chaos.
-By Aayushi Velingkar
Numbers obtained based on the statistical data given as of 31st March 2020.
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