MANILA - The strain of the SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), in the Philippines could have originated from India, a health expert said Wednesday.
Using publicly shared genome sequences, the most genetically-related virus in the Philippines came from the South Asian nation, said Dr. Edsel Salvaña, a member of the government's Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) technical advisory group.
“Hindi natin alam kung Indian ‘yon or may nag-travel lang sa India. Basta alam natin ‘yong pinaka-related na virus na parang mother virus na nandito sa atin ngayon actually originated from India,” he told Teleradyo.
He said the Philippines has sequenced 12 genomes so far from the more than 10,000 others worldwide. A genome is an organism's complete set of DNA, which is called RNA for viruses.
The virus strain that came from India could have caused the outbreak in the Philippines that started in March, he said.
“Puwedeng may nag-travel, kahit anong nationality. Dumaan muna siya sa India, tapos nahawa siya do’n tapos na-introduce niya sa Pilipinas or may isang Pilipino na nasa India tapos binalik niya after siya nag-tour,” said Salvaña, also the director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health.
He also stressed that the virus’ family tree appeared in China. It traveled to Australia before stopping in India.
“‘Yong sa India, nanggaling sa Australia and then ‘yong galing sa Australia galing sa China. So umikot muna siya ng mundo bago siya dumating sa atin,” Salvaña said.
Health experts have said genetic sequencing could help scientists understand the mutation of the virus strain, locate its origins and the development of vaccine.
To date, the Philippines has recorded 13,221 coronavirus infections, with 842 deaths and 2,932 recoveries.