The nation has not yet reached any peak or plateau in terms of coronavirus cases which means the situation will probably get worse. We have to do something to bring about the plateau or peak and it will certainly come at a cost with the number of coronavirus cases already climbing over 2 million or 20 lakh and 40,000 fatalities, cautioned CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) director Rakesh Mishra.

Massive scale of testing, tracing, isolating and ‘social vaccine’ of personal hygiene of regular hand washing, maintaining social and physical distance with each other and wearing a proper face mask appropriately are the only means available to control the further spread of COVID-19, he affirmed.

“If everyone followed these rules religiously, we can defeat this virus, more so since there is no vaccine coming on August 15 or till the year-end, if at all. A lot more remains to be learnt about the virus,” he said in a webinar on the role of academic institutions during pandemic times.

Dr. Mishra has already been quoted stating that the Russian vaccine efficacy could be validated only if more data is available about the protocols followed considering the less number of people tested in the trials stage there. Noting that the large number of cases in the country were in the 20-30-40 age group, Dr. Mishra said it has ‘serious implications’ as these could spread to the vulnerable sections of elderly and those with co-morbidities. “We are lucky that this virus has spared lives in the sense that more than 80% are asymptomatic. We should also educate people not to stigmatise those returning to normal lives after getting cured as they are the ‘speed-breakers’ halting the march of the virus,” he maintained.

A notable aspect of the virus infection after having studied 1,886 genomes from 19 States and sourced from 35 research institutions is that a single strain or clade ‘A2a’ has turned out to be the dominant one in the country. Since it has not been mutating much it would not be disadvantageous for scientists to find a way to treat the virus whether it is with drugs or the vaccine.CCMB has also initiated a study to understand why more men rather than females are prone to the infection and the genetic disposition towards being an asymptomatic virus carrier when there is a single dominant clade.

But, it would require more study and pouring through lots of data, he said. This was also a challenging moment for scientific bodies, academic institutions and the industry to collaborate on finding solutions and “reaffirm the public trust in science”.

“This is a lifetime opportunity to make a difference as a scientist whether to understand biology, drugs, vaccines, hospital treatment, in this worst public health crises,” he said and added the premier research institute alone has been collaborating with 15 different firms and incubating 25 start-ups.

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