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Russian scientists hope to decode COVID-19 genome to track its evolution

This will enable researchers to come up with biological models for testing medicines to treat the infection

NOVOSIBIRSK, April 8. /TASS/. Scientists at the Federal Research Center of Fundamental and Translational Medicine under the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, currently serving as the basis for coronavirus samples analysis, are going to decode the COVID-19 genome to track its evolution. This will enable researchers to come up with biological models for testing medicines to treat the infection, the chief of the infections modeling and monitoring laboratory, Kirill Sharshov, has told the media.

The FRC FTM laboratory last week started testing biomaterials for coronavirus after obtaining permission from the consumer rights watchdog Rospotrebnadzor to use the test system Vektor-Best, which is highly sensitive to the presence of the virus.

"We are studying the coded samples. In the future we hope to be able to decode the genome. I know that this has been done several times already. At some future date we will have at our disposal a set of samples that will enable us to make conclusions regarding the pace of the virus’s revolution and markers of its properties. For instance, markers that are responsible for resistibility to certain medicines. All this information will eventually be used for further research into biological models for testing medicines," Sharshov said.

The Novosibirsk Region’s Minister of Science and Innovations Policies, Alexei Vasiliev, said the FRC FTM laboratory was one of the first in Russia to have obtained the consumer rights watchdog’s permission to test samples to be used for decoding the genome. "Several hundred tests have been made so far. The institute will achieve a rate of 700 tests a day in the near future. In combination with the existing capabilities of the regional Health Ministry it will be able to meet the entire demand for such tests," Vasiliev said.

According to earlier reports, the laboratories of four research centers operating under the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences will start making polymerase chain reaction tests for identifying the coronavirus.

In late December 2019, Chinese officials notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, in central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus - named COVID-19 by the WHO - have been reported in every corner of the globe, including Russia.

On March 11, 2020, the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. According to the latest statistics, more than 1.4 million people have been infected worldwide and more than 80,000 deaths have been reported.

To date, a total of 7,497 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Russia, with 494 patients having recovered from the virus. The country’s latest data indicates 58 fatalities nationwide. Earlier, the Russian government set up an Internet hotline to keep the public updated on the coronavirus situation.