The novel coronavirus in India may have originated from Europe, the Middle East, Oceania and South Asia regions, according to a study by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru.
The observation is a part of the findings of the IISc team comprising Kumar Somasundaram, Mainak Mondal and Ankita Lawarde after analysing 294 Indian viral genomes.
The objective of the study was to determine the genetic diversity among Indian SARS-CoV-2 viral isolates in comparison to the strains that are occurring worldwide.
"The potential origin appears to be countries mainly from Europe, the Middle East, Oceania and South Asia regions, which strongly implies the spread of virus through the most travelled countries," the team noted.
"Among different strains of the virus as identified by Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data, Indian SARS-CoV-2 viruses are enriched with G (50 per cent) and I (6.7 per cent) clades in addition to 40 per cent samples with unknown genetic variants," it stated further.
The team is also finding the functional impact of high occurrence non-synonymous mutations on the viral protein functions and use this information toward understanding immune escape mechanisms and also developing mutant specific therapies.
The team noted that while the novel coronavirus increased to more than five million worldwide, it has just crossed over one lakh in India.
The low infection rate in India, according to the team, could be due to long lockdown with effective social distancing, active identification of COVID-19 patients and quarantining them with proper treatment, presumed cross-immune protection and possibly variation in the viral strains that are introduced or prevalent in India.
"Comparison of viral genome sequences from different regions/countries allows us to identify the genetic diversity among viruses which would help in ascertaining virulence, disease pathogenicity, as well as origin and spread of SARS-CoV-2, between countries," the team added.