PUTRAJAYA, Oct 23 — Genome sequencing conducted on COVID-19 virus samples has helped the Health Ministry (MOH) in its planning to improve preparedness to deal with the pandemic.

Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said Malaysia has conducted genome sequencing but not on all cases identified as Covid-19 positive.

“We have implemented (genome sequencing) from the beginning. For instance, we found there were 692 individuals from Indonesia in the Sri Petaling tabligh gathering cluster.  At that time our prediction was that the virus transmission had come from Indonesia but when a subsequent genome sequencing was conducted we discovered that the transmission originated from a strain identified in Indonesia. 

“So we know at the beginning of the second wave that the infection came from Indonesia,” he said.

He was responding to a question following a statement by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke yesterday stating that the sequencing of the genome of patients infected with COVID-19 gives New Zealand an advantage in dealing with the outbreak.

Dr Noor Hisham said genome sequencing did not help to curb the transmission of COVID-19, but can identify the location besides helping the ministry with its planning to enhance mitigation measures and preparedness in case of mutations with high infectivity.

He said the method helps MOH to learn more about the characteristics of the virus by studying certain clusters and strains but it takes up to three weeks to identify each mutation.

Dr Noor Hisham said in the early stage, three strains were identified, strain A from the United States, B from Wuhan in China and C from Indonesia.

He said genome sequencing was also conducted on the Sivagangga cluster which later revealed that it was linked to those returning from India, where the D614G mutation with high infectivity was detected.

Genome sequencing was also conducted on the Tawar, Sungai and Benteng clusters in Lahad Datu, he added.


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