COVID-19 virus isolation at RMRC, Dibrugarh

COVID-19 virus isolation at RMRC, Dibrugarh: For Press Brief:

The Regional Medical Research Centre for NE Region (ICMR-RMRC, Dibrugarh) situated at Lahowal, Dibrugarh has been supporting the state of Assam and other NE states in the fight against COVID-19. Till now the centre has provided almost 50,000 diagnostic test reports of COVID-19 for the people of this region. The research centre is engaged in various biomedical research work including, on the new COVID-19 pandemic.

It is a pleasure to note that RMRC, Dibrugarh has been successful in isolating the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus in their BSL-3 Lab.

As per our knowledge, RMRC, Dibrugarh is only the 3rd government Lab 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.

The scientists of RMRC, Dibrugarh, Dr Borkakoty and his team (Dr Jakharia), has isolated the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) in VERO-CCL81 cell line in the BSL-3 level lab available at their institute.
They 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.

In layman’s term the significance of the COVID-19 virus isolation by the team of scientists from RMRC, Dibrugarh, is that live and viable SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) can now be produced in the laboratory in abundance and as and when required.

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.

Further apart from vaccine development, the potential uses of cultures of SARS-CoV-2 includes drug screening for potential drugs or drug candidates against the virus, testing effectiveness of disinfectants, use in development of therapeutic antibodies etc.

It is also important to note that Bharat Biotech (a company based in Hyderabad) in collaboration with ICMR-NIV Pune (which supplied the virus grown in tissue culture), has developed an inactivated COVID-19 vaccine (COVAXIN) which will go for Phase I and Phase II human clinical trials starting in July. The COVID-19 virus which is just over six-months old has spread across all human communities and scientists now have detected over 10 different clades or strains circulating around the world. 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 A2a clade is now the most dominant clade across the world including India. Infact world over, the SARS-CoV-2 virus strains circulating differs by less than 0.3%. So, the strain variations till now in different geographical regions of the world should not pose a problem for vaccine development.

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