It is already known that like many other RNA viruses, the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is constantly changing through mutation. Numerous variants of the Covid-19 virus have been detected across the globe and a few of them are making scientists worry. Three specific viral lineages are identified as variants of concern as they are more transmissible, can cause more severe illness, and can escape the immune response that develops following infection and possibly from vaccination. These are the UK (B.1.1.7) lineage, the South African (B.1.351) lineage and the Brazilian (P.1) lineage, which researchers suggest need close monitoring. So far, a total of 771 cases of these variants of concerns (VOCs) have been detected in 18 Indian states, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday. The variants were identified from a total of 10,787 positive samples shared by the states and union territories. While 736 samples tested positive for viruses of the UK (B.1.1.7) lineage, 34 samples had the South African (B.1.351) lineage and one sample had the Brazilian (P.1) lineage. The Ministry also confirmed the presence of a new double mutant variant in India.
However, the current number of these variant cases are not sufficient to either establish direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in some states, the Health Ministry noted. It is a natural phenomenon and genomic variants of viruses are found in almost all countries, it added.
E484Q and L452R mutations found more in Maharashtra
The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), comprising of 10 National Laboratories, has been carrying out genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating Covid-19 viruses in India, focusing on samples from arriving international travellers, contacts of those positive for VOC and community samples from most of the states.
A COVID-19 variant with two mutations – E484Q and L452R – that appear to allow the virus to escape the body’s immune response and increase infectivity has been found in 15-20 per cent of samples from Maharashtra.
Another variant, known as N440K, which is associated with immune escape was found in 123 samples from the total 2,032 samples sequenced from 11 districts in Kerala. Earlier, this mutation was found in 33 per cent of samples from Andhra Pradesh, and in 53 of 104 samples from Telangana. This variant of concern has also been detected in 16 other countries including the UK, Denmark, Singapore, Japan and Australia.
With inputs from agencies
Published : March 24, 2021 3:49 pm | Updated:March 24, 2021 3:59 pm