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QAU researchers identify critical changes in multiple co-circulating Coronavirus types in Pakistan

A recently published research in a prestigious journal “Genes and Immunity” by “NATURE” has identified critical changes in coronavirus during its local transmissions in different countries including Pakistan. These specific changes have improved the ability of coronavirus to inhibit the human immune system, as a result, it spreads very fast to the lower respiratory tract of humans and causes severe respiratory syndrome.

Dr. Amir Ali Abbasi, Professor and Chairperson at the National Center for Bioinformatics, Quaid-i-Azam University, who co-led the research in collaboration with their partners from China and the USA said their recently published scientific work can assist in designing small-molecule inhibitors that perturb specific functions of coronavirus in the suppression of host immunity, which may help to reduce disease burden and assist recovery of patients”.

The research team of Dr. Amir screened the genomes of more than 160 viruses from 40 countries around the world. Their results also add to a growing body of evidence that coronaviruses share a common ancestor from late 2019, suggesting this was when the virus jumped from a previous animal host into humans.

Dr. Amir Ali Abbasi said Pakistan is currently facing the second and most deadly outbreak of the COVID-19, so it’s an urgent need to generate and analyze large scale genetic data of COVID-19 causing coronavirus in Pakistan. Such genetic information can be used in combination with epidemiological data, to inform public health decision-making in Pakistan and to prevent further spread of coronavirus.

“Monitoring of the genetic diversity of the virus in Pakistan is essential for identification of possible local transmission chains to predict the spread of the virus”. This information will help in implementing effective border measures against this virus” said Dr. Abbasi. A major challenge to defeating coronavirus is that a vaccine or drug might no longer be effective if the virus has mutated. If we focus our efforts on parts of the coronavirus that are less likely to mutate, we have a better chance of developing drugs that will be effective in the long run.” A continuous study to monitor the genetic mutations of the virus is important to control its spread, he further added.