Indian scientist to join WHO expert group to determine origin of covid

New Delhi: In a first, an Indian scientist, Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, will be part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Scientific Advisory Group for determining the origin of covid-19 pandemic. 

Dr Gangakhedkar, an Indian epidemiologist, is Dr C.G. Pandit National Chair at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in India.

The proposed members of the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) were selected for their expertise in areas such as epidemiology, animal health, clinical medicine, virology and genomics. 

Gangakhedkar was the Head Scientist of Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases at the ICMR before retiring on 30 June 2020. He is also a recipient of the 2020 Padma Shri award, the fourth highest civilian award in India for his service and research in HIV/AIDS. In his two-year stint with the ICMR from 2018 to 2020, he was active in handling the Nipah virus outbreak and the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

The investigations of the origin of SARS CoV2 virus that causes covid-19 have so far been inconclusive amid raging controversies that the virus was leaked out from a laboratory in China. Earlier in August, WHO had asked China to share raw data and allow retesting of samples in labs outside the country to advance studies on the origins of SARS-CoV-2 to address the “lab hypothesis”.

Pressure has always been mounting on Beijing to consider a fresh probe into the orgins of a pandemic that has killed more than four million people and paralysed economies worldwide since it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

China had then hit back, reiterating its position that the initial investigation was enough and that calls for more data were motivated by politics instead of scientific inquiry. Various reports have stated that virus jumping from bats to humans via an intermediate animal was the most probable scenario, while a leak from Wuhan’s virology labs was “extremely unlikely”, however there have been voices over further investigation of data and finding out more evidence.

“SAGO will advise WHO on the development of a global framework to define and guide studies into the origins of emerging and re-emerging pathogens with epidemic and pandemic potential, including SARS-CoV-2,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of WHO.

 

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