A study conducted by the University of Sri Jayewardenepura has revealed that the Covid-19 virus currently is different to the strain found in Sri Lanka previously and has a high transmissability. According to the study the virus strain which is currently spreading in the country belongs to the fast spreading ‘B.1.42’ category. Previously found clusters in the country belong to the B.1, B.2, B 1.1 and B.4 categories.
The scientists at the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine and Allergy, Immunology and Cell Biology Unit of University of Sri Jayewardenepura had commenced the study on carrying out whole genomic sequencing of the virus, to determine to see if the current outbreak is due to the spread of different strains if there are certain mutations that result in the rapid spread of the virus and to investigate the relationship between the currently circulating virus strains to previous strains circulating in Sri Lanka.
The key findings of the study are that the current circulating strain is different to the strains that circulated previously, it has the mutation associated with high transmissibility due to high viral loads and that the same virus strain is responsible for the infections detected in the Minuwangoda, Colombo Municipality area and the Fish market cluster.
16 virus strains originating from Brandix, Minuwangoda, the Colombo Municipality area, Beruwala fish market and patients admitted to tertiary care hospitals were subjected to sequencing
The team of scientists that carried out the sequencing work are Dr. Chandima Jeewandara, Dr. Deshni Jayathilaka, Dr. Dinuka Ariyaratne, Laksiri Gomes and Diyanath Ranasinghe led by Prof. Neelika Malavige. Dr. Ananda Wijewickram and Dr. Malika Karunaratne from NIID, provided the initial samples from the Brandix cluster for sequencing.
Commenting on the recent revelation, Secretary to the Ministry of Health Major General Dr. Sanjeewa Munasinghe said the research done by Prof. Malavige has revealed that the virus found now is a different strain to that of the virus found in patients belonging to the Kandakadu and Navy clusters previously.
According to Munasinghe, this variant has the dangerous potential to be transmitted easily to another person. “This is why it has spread to a significant number of people in a short span of time” he said.
“She is unable to tell if this was the virus strain that is found in England or in the US because she does not have the necessary samples from those countries. However she is carrying out further research to see the possibility of linking this strain to another country. But one thing can be said for sure, this is not a strain we had but one that has come from abroad” he added.