UK and India partner on covid-19 research

11 May 2021 | Muriel Cozier

WHO says that Indian variant of covid-19 is of global concern.

UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Fund for International Collaboration and India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) are funding four research partnerships aimed at developing a deeper understanding of covid-19 severity in South Asian populations located in India and the UK.

With funding of £5 million, the projects will seek to understand the pandemic through the study of related ethnic groups in different environments in both countries. The partners say that the projects have the potential to deliver public health impacts in mitigating the severity of covid-19 in both the UK and India. The four projects include a study looking at the Role of the oral microbiome and mucosal immunity in covid-19 disease: diagnostic/prognostic utility in South Asian Populations.

Professor Christopher Smith, UKRI International Champion, commented: ‘The covid-19 pandemic demonstrates the vital role of international science and innovation partnerships in collecting information, sharing knowledge and experiences and developing rapid solutions to tackle world problems.’

The announcement came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that the variant of covid-19 first found in India, the B.1.617 mutation, is now classified as a ‘variant of global concern.’

Speaking at a press briefing on Monday 10 May, Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO Technical Lead on Covid-19 said: ‘There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility [of this variant]. But we need much more information about this virus variant and its lineage.’ Then added ‘We need more sequencing, targeted sequencing, to be done in India and elsewhere so that we know how much of this virus is circulating.’

She also stressed the importance of continuing to use all the measures available to reduce the likelihood of spreading any virus. ‘Any of the viruses circulating can infect you and can spread…So all of us, no matter where we live, no matter what viruses are circulating, we need to take all the measures at hand to prevent ourselves from getting sick.’  

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