KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 28 — University Malaysia Sarawak’s (Unimas) capacity in genomic sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, is equivalent to all other research institutes combined, according to the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a parliamentary reply last Wednesday to Kuala Selangor MP Dzulkefly Ahmad, who is a former health minister, that Unimas had Covid-19 genomic testing capacity of 200 tests every fortnight, compared to the Institute for Medical Research’s (IMR) 60 tests, UiTM’s 48 tests, University Malaya’s Tropical Infectious Diseases Research & Education Centre’s (Tidrec) 48 tests, and UKM Medical Molecular Biology Institute’s (UMBI) 48 tests.
Unimas’ genomic sequencing capacity of 200 tests is just slightly lower than the combined capacity of 204 tests by IMR, UiTM, Tidrec, and UMBI, as of August 26. These research institutes are part of a Covid-19 genomic surveillance consortium of the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), and the Higher Education Ministry (KPT).
University Malaya’s Faculty of Medicine and the Malaysian Genome Institute are due to begin genomic surveillance under the MOH-MOSTI-KPT consortium this month, whereas IMR and Unimas started genomic sequencing under the consortium on August 1, followed by UiTM (August 18), Tidrec (August 23), and UMBI (August 24).
“As of August 26, MOH has run genome sequencing studies on 779 cases,” said Khairy.
IMR, which is under MOH, ran 43 per cent of cumulative coronavirus genome sequencing tests in Malaysia to date, followed by Unimas (34 per cent), University Malaya (12 per cent), and the Malaysian Genome Institute (10 per cent), as well as 1 per cent from other institutes, according to the health minister.
Health authorities first revealed IMR’s genome surveillance studies in August 2020 on the Tawar and Sivagangga clusters that originated in Kedah, while Sarawak state officials announced in February this year Unimas’ discovery of two coronavirus variants.
Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said last Saturday that from September 13 to 25, a total of 472 coronavirus cases with the Delta variant were found nationwide, including 302 in Sarawak.
As of September 25, a total of 1,612 Delta cases were detected across Malaysia, including 998 in Sarawak, 167 in Selangor, while other states recorded below 100 Delta infections.