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* Study finds COVID-19 virus strain currently spreading in Sri Lanka highly transmissible
Sat, Oct 31, 2020, 11:11 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Oct 31, Colombo: A study conducted by the scientists at the Sri Jayewardenepura University have found that the currently circulating COVID-19 coronavirus strain is different to the strains that circulated previously and highly transmissible.

Sri Lanka is currently experiencing a massive outbreak, which originated in Minuwangoda, Gampaha district in early October and is now spreading all over the country.

The scientists at the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine and Allergy, Immunology and Cell Biology Unit of University of Sri Jayewardenepura have carried out the whole genomic sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to determine whether the current outbreak is due to spread of different strains.

The team of scientists aimed to determine whether there are certain mutations that result in the rapid spread of the virus and to investigate the relationship between the current circulating virus strains to previous strains circulating in Sri Lanka.

The team of scientists that carried out the sequencing work are Dr. Chandima Jeewandara, Dr. Deshni Jayathilaka, Dr. Dinuka Ariyaratne, Mr. Laksiri Gomes and Mr. Diyanath Ranasinghe led by Prof. Neelika Malavige. Dr. Ananda Wijewickram and Dr. Malika Karunaratne from NIID.

The team sequenced 16 virus strains originating from Brandix, Minuwangoda, the Colombo Municipality area, Beruwala fish market and patients admitted to tertiary care hospitals.

Whole genomic sequencing was successful in 13 strains and partial sequencing in 3 strains.

Twelve out of the 13 strains were similar to each other and were of the B.1.42 lineage suggesting that the virus strains circulating in different places in the country, are of a common origin.

Out of the 16 strains, 15 had the D614G mutation, which is associated with high viral load and higher rates of transmissibility.

The findings have revealed that the current circulating strain is different to the strains that circulated previously and the virus has the mutation associated with high transmissibility due to high viral loads.

The same virus strain is so far responsible for the infections detected in the Minuwangoda, Colombo Municipality area and the Fish market cluster, the researchers concluded.


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