New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Scientists at the National Institute of Virology have successfully isolated and cultured the new strain of COVID-19 first found in the United Kingdom last month, the Indian Council of Medical Research said on Saturday. In a tweet, the ICMR said India is the first country to successfully culture the UK strain of SARS-CoV-2, which has infected 33 people in the nation so far.

"SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19, was being tracked through countrywide network of ICMR-laboratories since early days of the epidemic in India. UK Variant of the virus, with all signature changes, is now successfully isolated and cultured at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) from the clinical specimens collected from UK-returnees," the ICMR said in a statement.  

"No country has yet reported successful isolation and culture of the UK-variant of SARS-CoV-2. Vero cell lines were used by scientists of ICMR-NIV to culture the UK-variant of the virus," it added.

The newly identified strain of the virus found in the UK is up to 70 per cent more transmissible and more infectious than the existing strain. Its presence has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.

Several nations, including India had suspended flights with the United Kingdom in the wake of the development. The flight operations will resume in a graded manner from January 6. The government has also issued a standard operating procedure for passengers arriving from the UK.

It may be noted that India was amongst the first few countries to successfully isolate SARS-CoV-2 after it spread across the world from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Posted By: Lakshay Raja