Coronavirus strain in Indonesia different from those of other countries, govt says

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The coronavirus strain that has swept across Indonesia is different from at least three other known SARS-CoV-2 strains affecting the rest of the world, the government has said.

The conclusion was based on an analysis of data on three complete genome sequences of the coronavirus in the archipelago submitted by the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology to GISAID, Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said.

GISAID, an initiative that promotes the sharing of genetic data on influenza viruses and the coronavirus, has been collecting data on the various strains of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 from a number of countries, he said.

The research has so far found at least three different strains of the coronavirus, identified as types S, G and V.

"Strains other than those three types are yet to be identified. The samples sent from Indonesia are among the unidentified ones," Bambang said during a meeting with the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The new information contained in the complete genome sequences is expected to help scientists understand the mutations of the virus strains and aid the development of a vaccine, Bambang said.

Eijkman on Monday submitted its first three complete genome sequences of the Indonesian strain to GISAID.

This was the first submission from Indonesia, although the Health Ministry's lab announced that it was also sequencing the virus early in the outbreak.

The government has appointed the Eijkman Institute to spearhead the vaccine development programme through a consortium that includes the Health Ministry's Research and Development Agency (Balitbangkes), state-owned pharmaceutical company PT Bio Farma and several universities.

Bambang, who also serves as the head of the National Research Agency (BRIN), said he couldn't be certain as to when a vaccine would be available, but that he expected it to be produced early next year.

"We will continue working with other stakeholders to expedite the development of a vaccine," he said.

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