The Ganga River has been declared Covid free. The finding bears significance in the backdrop of the fact that BSIP scientists had earlier found traces of the SARS-CoV2 virus in the water of Gomti river in Lucknow.
After a two-month research by medical and genetic experts of Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi and Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeosciences (BSIP), Lucknow, it has been found that the Ganga river has no trace of the pandemic causing coronavirus.
BSIP scientist Niraj Rai, who heads the Covid Lab at the institute, said: "Our team extracted RNA and performed an RT-PCR test for all the samples with a true positive and negative sample. Surprisingly, none of the samples collected from the Ganga showed any trace of the viral RNA. However, samples collected from river Gomti did show the presence of viral RNA."
RNA (RiboNucleic acid) extraction is the purification of RNA from biological samples. This procedure is complicated by the ubiquitous presence of ribonuclease enzymes in cells and tissues, which can rapidly degrade RNA.
Prof Gyaneshwar Chaubey of the department of zoology, BHU, said: "A joint team of BHU and BSIP investigated possible presence of the coronavirus in the Ganga as many experts had expressed contrasting views after human bodies were found floating in the river during May 2021."
He said that to investigate possible traces of the virus in the Ganga, the team collected two samples every week for seven weeks from Varanasi city, beginning May 15 to July 3. The sample collecting point as well as the process to test the sample was the same every time.
He stated that his team had found presence of the virus in the Gomti water even after the treatment of sewage water at two sewage treatment plants (STPs) of Lucknow.
"The virus was found in Gomti last year (September 2020) as well as this year (May 21)," he added.
The finding is also important as it has been conducted amid apprehension that water of river Ganga may have been contaminated after several bodies were found floating in rivers Ganga and Yamuna. A large number of bodies were also buried on their banks during the peak of the pandemic.
Prof VN Mishra of the BHU's department of neurosciences, one of the key contributors of this study, said: "The finding implies that Ganga water has some exceptional property due to some natural 'phage viruses' present in the water. We are exploring more to understand this phenomenon."