Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation, interviewed by Ananth Krishnan (The Hindu)

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation, interviewed by Ananth Krishnan (The Hindu)

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published Published on Apr 11, 2020   modified Modified on Apr 12, 2020

-The Hindu

Lockdowns alone can’t be effective unless combined with other health measures, says the WHO Chief Scientist.

Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organisation, tells The Hindu in an interview that the fight against COVID-19 is likely to be long-term, and lockdowns alone cannot be effective unless combined with other public health measures. Dr. Swaminathan, who has worked in research on tuberculosis and HIV for 30 years, was previously Secretary to the Government of India for Health Research and Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) from 2015 to 2017. Edited excerpts:

* What do we know so far about how SARS-CoV-2 is spreading around the world? Is there evidence to suggest a variance in its virulence in different countries?

Viral evolution and transmission dynamics can be studied by analysing genetic sequence data. We first got the viral sequences from China through the GISAID platform, which was set up 10 years ago for influenza sequence sharing, and since then, many countries have provided sequence data as it became available. There are over 4,500 viral sequences currently deposited, with around 10 Indian strains in this database. What we see is, that over time, there is some variability in the strains. That is to be expected, as all viruses develop mutations as they transmit from person to person.

What is not being observed so far is any mutation on any of the important sites of the virus, such as the spike protein or in the RNA polymerase or protease enzymes, which are relevant for drug targeting and vaccines. Those sites have not shown any major mutation, so we believe whatever strategies are now being used to develop both therapeutics or vaccines are not threatened by any changes we are observing in the virus. In other words, there are minor mutations that occur as viruses evolve.

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Image Courtesy: The Hindu/ R Ragu


The Hindu, 11 April, 2020, https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/health/who-chief-scientist-soumya-swaminathan-interview-data-is-key-to-control-coronavirus-pandemic/article31319156.ece?homepage=true


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