Guwahati: Assam’s Lahowal-based Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) has become the third government lab and fourth in the country to be successful in isolating the COVID-19 virus in their BSL-3 Lab.
A high-level team of scientists, led by Dr B Borkakoty, isolated the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) in VERO-CCL81 cell line in the BSL-3 level lab available at their institute.
RMRC Lahowal is the third government laboratory in the country, after NIV (ICMR Lab), Pune and CCMB (CSIR lab), Hyderabad and 4th lab overall after Bharat Biotech (Pvt Biotechnology lab at Hyderabad), to isolate the virus in tissue culture.
“This is important for development of inactivated COVID-19 vaccine where virus grown in laboratory are inactivated by heat or chemical and purified for use as vaccines after pre-clinical and clinical trials,” a statement from the institute stated.
Sources said that the scientists used an immortal cell line VERO-CCL81 (derived from kidney epithelial cell lines from green African monkey) which expresses the important ACE2 receptor needed by SARS-CoV-2 for cellular entry. The development means that live and viable SARS-CoV-2 can now be produced in lab in abundance and as and when required.
Further, apart from vaccine development, the potential uses of cultures of SARS-CoV-2 include drug screening for potential drugs or drug candidates against the virus, testing effectiveness of disinfectants, use in development of therapeutic antibodies, etc.
“Originally only two types of the virus were noted, the L-type and the S-type but the S-type is slowly disappearing. Dr Borkakoty and his team at RMRC Dibrugarh in April this year also developed an in-house test (TSP-PCR) to detect the L or S type of the virus within 3 hours. It was found that all strains circulating in Assam were L-type. However, now scientists have classified the virus into different clades (O, A1, A2a, A3, B, B1, and so on) which differ from one another very minutely,” the statement said.
The A2a clade is now the most dominant clade across the world, including India. In fact, the world over, the SARS-CoV-2 virus strains circulating differ by less than 0.3 per cent. So, the strain variations till now in different geographical regions of the world should not pose a problem for vaccine development.
Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that it is a landmark achievement for the State. “It’s is a very good news for the State at a time when some people of the State are raising questions on the Covid-19 cases in the State and the low mortality rate,” he said.