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Gujarat: A study by researchers from IIT-Gandhinagar has found traces of Covid in Sabarmati river and two lakes in Ahmedabad city of Gujarat. The study, however, did not reveal if the genes of the virus found in the water samples were dead or alive, PTI reported on Friday. The research was funded by the UNICEF and led by Professor Manish Kumar, who has emphasised the need for further probe to avert any future tragedy.

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Following the findings, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) decided to send samples from the water bodies to the Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC).

Harpalsinh Zala, AMC's city engineer for Water Resources, said that the GBRC is the authorised agency for water analysis. "We have been sending samples to them since the last one year and they submit their report to the state government," he said. Zala, however, said that he had no idea about the IIT's findings. But, he said he will now send samples of these water bodies to the GBRC for a similar analysis.

The study was conducted between September and December 2020 and water samples were collected from the Sabarmati river, Chandola and Kankaria lakes of the city, the report said.

Professor Manish Kumar said that their aim was to detect the presence of N, S and ORF lab genes of SARS-CoV-2, also called as coronavirus, through RNA isolation. "We found N-gene copies in the waters of the Sabarmati river, Chandola and Kankaria lakes. The ORF lab-gene was not found in Chandola, while S-gene copies were present in all the three water bodies," Kumar, who teaches in the IIT's Earth Sciences department, was quoted as saying by PTI.

The professor said that although genes of coronavirus were detected, the research methodology did not tell if they were alive or dead. "However, we can't just presume that they all were dead".

"Although virus transmission through water is not proven yet, institutions need to come together and conduct further research on this. Monitoring is needed," the professor added. Kumar claimed that if virus genes reached the surface water through urine or excreta of Covid patients, then the genes would have been dead.

However, the genes might have been alive if they came from the mouth of a Covid patient, such as through gargled water, he said. "We do not know if genes found by us were alive or not. Further research is needed to understand the implications of our findings. Governments should also focus on better solid waste management," Kumar said.

The report has been submitted to the UNICEF.

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