On Wednesday, the union health ministry announced that a new double mutant strain of the SARS CoV2 virus had been discovered in India. This is in addition to the virus's circulating in 18 states throughout the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil.
According to the government, the new virus strain, which has two mutations, is highly contagious and has the ability to bypass immunity established by natural infection or vaccines.
The development raises significant concerns for the nation, as a second wave of the covid-19 pandemic looms large in a country where over 50 million people have already been vaccinated against the disease.
“Analysis of Maharashtra samples showed that the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations increased from December 2020 to December 2021. "Such mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity," the union health ministry said in a statement.
“These mutations were observed in about 15-20% of samples and do not fit any previously cataloged variants of concern (VOCs),” the researchers said with regard to the UK Strain, South Africa Variant, and Brazil variant found in India.
These have been classified as VOCs, but they require the same epidemiological and public health response from the States/UTs, including increased testing, systematic tracking of close contacts, prompt isolation of positive cases and contacts, and care as per National Treatment Protocol.
The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a group of 10 National Laboratories founded by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in December 2020, has been conducting genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating CoV-19 viruses, as well as correlating epidemiological trends with genomic variants.
“A total of 771 variants were discovered in over 10,000 samples that were subjected to genome sequencing. The variants were discovered in 18 states/UTs, with 62 of them in Maharashtra. A total of 736 UK Strains, 34 South Africa Strain, and 1 Brazil variant have been traced so far in the country," Sujeet Kumar Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
In addition, INSACOG sequenced 2032 samples from Kerala's 14 districts. According to the Government, the N440K version, which is linked to immune escape, has been identified in 123 samples from 11 districts.
This variant was previously found in 33% of Andhra Pradesh samples and 53 of 104 samples from Telangana. In addition to the United Kingdom, Denmark, Singapore, Japan, and Australia, this variant has been identified in 16 other countries. As of now, these can only be defined as "variant under investigation," according to the union health ministry.
Due to the rapid spread of mutant SARS CoV2 viruses globally, over 47,262 new covid-19 cases have been reported in the last 24 hours.
Six states account for 81.65% of the total number of incidents. Maharashtra has the most significant number of regular new cases, with 28,699. Punjab is next with 2,254 new cases, while Karnataka has 2,010 new cases. The government has raised concerns about recent surge cases in Maharashtra, Punjab, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh, among other states.
The government claims that while mutants and a new double mutant form have been discovered in India, there aren't enough of them to create a clear link or explain the rapid increase in cases of some states.
A motivated student of Medicine & Surgery (MBBS) at R. G. Kar Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata, having a knack for reading and composing medical literature. When he's not writing content for MEDtalks, Swapnil is usually looking up the latest trends and innovations in Medicine.