The Covid-19 Research: How India Responds?

Since the advent of first reported case of the Covid-19 or SARS-CoV-2 viral infection in India, the scientific response against this worldwide pandemic has been quite significant. The need of time has resulted into an immense scientific polarization towards the Covid-19 specific research. Now India ranks second with 5.73 million total numbers of cases amongst 200 affected nations all across the world, lagging just behind the USA [1]. As per the website of Ministry of Health and Family Affairs, Government of India, the deaths in the country till September 24, 2020 was reported 91,149, which is considered to be very low in terms of deaths/million in comparison to Brazil and the USA [2], [3]. A recently published study by Dr. Gyaneshwer Chaubey’s group, which focuses upon predicting the role of some specific genetic variants and polymorphisms in South Asians genome – has hinted about two inbuilt unique event polymorphisms (rs4646120 and rs2285666) that have declined the host susceptibility towards the SARS-CoV-2 infection in South Asian population, unlike Europeans or Americans [4]. The same group has also established an association of rs2285666 polymorphism with a low country-wide infection rate in yet another publication [5]. It is a fact of great scientific interest that even in the state of an aggressive Covid-19 testing, how the high numbers of cases are accumulating in the two major metropolitan cities of India- Mumbai and Delhi, which account for one-third of total Covid-19 cases in the country; this disparity in number of cases and case-fatality ratio in India can be explained by the rs2285666 polymorphism association with the disease [5], [6].

Figure 1. Graphical representation of gender distribution of Covid19 cases in India. As per the ICMR data this sex-based disparity is prominent, by an approximate ratio of 1:2. However, the proximate reason for the disparity may be lack of data for actual number of affected females in the country.

Sex-disparities in infection and mortality rate for the SARS-CoV-2 disease have raised an internal debate amongst the scientific community. The number of infections of SARS-CoV-2 in most of the Asian and African countries including India shows a high per cent of infection rate amongst males in comparison to females [7]. However, the adversity inequality in the Covid-19 infection and low number of females getting infected in the third world may be due to the missing data for females. The less access of females to the proper healthcare and also their societal negligence may have resulted into a significantly uncertain data in their case.

Studies on mitochondrial impacts of SARS-CoV-2 by Dr. Keshav K. Singh and Dr. G. Chaubey, have revealed how the viral RNA ‘hijacks’ the powerhouse of the host cells. The viral RNA transcripts and proteins in the host cell mitochondria ‘take over’ the mtDNA by ORF-9b, this ORF of the viral genome manipulates the mtDNA and causes its release into the cytoplasm by mitochondrial fragmentation. This release of mtDNA instigates the inflammation and suppresses the adaptive and innate immunity [8]. 

Figure 2. How SARS-CoV-2 ‘hijacks’ the mitochondrion of a host cell? A specific segment of viral RNA, ORF-9b, manipulates the mtDNA and causes its release into the cytoplasm by mitochondrial fragmentation. As soon as mtDNA is released in the cytoplasm, it results into many destructive physiological effects.

Talking about the much hyped candidate for the Covid-19 treatment is hydroxychloroquine all across the world. In a recent article by Dr. S.K. Pathak, who is a medical doctor by profession and group suggested a very straight forward judgment for this medicine- it has no benefit in treatment of Covid-19 [9]. They studied a population consisting of a total of 4984 patients with Covid-19, out of which 35.5% were provided with hydroxychloroquine or its congeners and 62.01% were provided standard of care or had included antiviral medication. However, the estimated success of the treatment of both the groups was similar (77.45% and 77.87% respectively). This study shows that HCQ does not show any significant benefit in patients affected by Covid-19 disease.

India is a home to 1.38 billion people, which is around 18% of the world. The dwindling healthcare system to support such large population is a major challenge. The average cost of treatment to a Covid-19 patient is between INR 20,000 and 25,000 daily, without ventilator or lifesaving equipment. Therefore a minimum 14-day treatment costs between INR 280,000 and 350,000. In a middle-income country like India, this is a huge bulk of money. Therefore it is a need of time, most importantly for the South Asian and African countries that a permanent cure could be found out. India being one of the fastest growing nations amongst the South Asian countries needs to invest more into research and development field, home to some prominent institutions of the region viz. IITs, IISERs, central universities like Banaras Hindu University, Jawaharlal Nehru University etc. are performing with their expanded capabilities towards the good cause of the nation. As of now, when every day approximately 100,000 cases of the disease are being observed in India, it is a need of time that people and government put more faith in science and medicine.


About the Authors:

Nikhil Srivastava is currently M.Sc. Zoology candidate at Department of Zoology, Banaras Hindu University, India. He is a former Khorana Scholar (2019), he worked at the Ohio State University, USA. His research interests are in the diverse fields of genetics and molecular biology.



Pushp Ranjan is currently Biotechnology candidate at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati, India.




  1. John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center. Available online at: (accessed September 09, 2020).
  2. Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Government of India, Covid19 data. Online at: (accessed September 09, 2020).
  3. Worldometer COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC data. Available online at: (accessed September 09, 2020).
  4. Srivastava A, Pandey RK, Singh PP, Kumar P, Rasalkar AA, et al. (2020) Most frequent South Asian haplotypes of ACE2 share identity by descent with East Eurasian populations. PLOS ONE 15(9): e0238255.
  5. Srivastava A, Bandopadhyay A, Das D, Pandey RK, Singh PP, Srivastava N, et al. (2020) Genetic association of ACE2 rs2285666 polymorphism with Covid-19 spatial distribution in India. Front. Genet. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2020.56474.
  6. Chaubey G. Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and Mortality Rate in India: The Winning Edge. Front. Public Health, 21 July 2020.
  7. Salunke, B., Rasalkar, A., Bhatia, S., Reddy, D., & Chaubey, G. (2020). Sex disparity in COVID-19 infection and mortality. Polymorph. 5, 16-26.
  8. Singh KK,* Chaubey G,* et al. Decoding SARS-CoV-2 hijacking of host mitochondria in COVID-19 pathogenesis. (2020). Am J Physiol Cell Physiol 319: C258 –C267. doi:10.1152/ajpcell.00224.2020
  9. Pathak DSK, Salunke DAA, Thivari DP, et al. No benefit of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19: Results of Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. (2020). Diabetes Metab Syndr. 2020;14(6):1673-1680. doi:10.1016/j.dsx.2020.08.033
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