Study confirms latest COVID-19 wave in Sri Lanka has high transmissibility

A new study has confirmed that the latest wave of the coronavirus in Sri Lanka has high transmissibility.

The study by the University of Sri Jayewardenepura noted that Sri Lanka is currently experiencing a massive outbreak of the coronavirus, which originated in Minuwangoda in the Gampaha district and is spreading all over Sri Lanka.

The scientists at the Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine and Allergy, Immunology and Cell Biology Unit of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura embarked on carrying out whole genomic sequencing of the virus, to determine if the current outbreak is due to the spread of different strains, if there are certain mutations that result in the rapid spread of the virus and to investigate the relationship between the current virus strains to previous strains circulating in Sri Lanka.

Key findings of the study are:

  • The current circulating strain is different to the strains that circulated previously.
  • It 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 University of Sri Jayewardenepura said that 16 virus strains originating from Brandix, Minuwangoda, the Colombo Municipality area, Beruwala fish market and patients admitted to tertiary care hospitals were subjected to sequencing.

Whole genomic sequencing was successful in 13 strains and partial sequencing in 3 strains. 12/13 strains were similar to each other and were of the B.1.42 lineage (clade 20C), suggesting that the virus strains circulating in different places in the country, are of a common origin. 15/16 strains had the D614G mutation, which is associated with high viral load and higher rates of transmissibility.

The previous strains that circulated in Sri Lanka were of the B.1, B.2, B 1.1 and B.4 lineages (The Kandakadu cluster viruses were of B.1 lineage), and therefore, the current virus strain is slightly different as it belongs to the B.1.42 lineage.

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.

They were provided the initial samples from the Brandix cluster for sequencing. The funding for sequencing was provided by the World Health Organization while Mobitel provided unlimited high-speed internet for this purpose. (Colombo Gazette)

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