Arnab Pain's group, in collaboration with the Saudi MoH and Saudi CDC (among others), has employed large-scale genome sequencing of COVID-19-positive individuals to analyze the genomes of SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in Saudi Arabia. The group then compares them in the global context by employing bioinformatic analysis of the datasets. The group has developed a genetic "barcode" of the global population of the SARS-CoV-2 viruses by systematically tracking mutations in their genetic material over time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Genetic barcoding can offer a way of tracking how these viruses infect from one person to another; discovering whether there are imported cases; and also monitoring the effectiveness of the virus control or other containment measures taken by healthcare authorities. Combining the genome data with the clinical metadata may allow the identification of genetic features of the virus strains that make them more virulent or transmissible.
In collaboration with other colleagues in KAUST, Pain's team is also looking at:
Optimization of nucleic acid (genetic material)-based detection technologies for early detection of the virus in body fluids.
Benchmarking of currently available nucleic acid (genetic material)-based detection technologies.
Developing genomic visualization tools to understand the pandemic from a genetics perspective.