The ‘double mutant’ virus that scientists had flagged last month as having a bearing on the spread of the pandemic in India, has a formal scientific classification: B.1.617.
- Other than a place on the coronavirus’s evolutionary history, it also brings focus on the role the variant may be playing in the pandemic, which is now seeing nearly 100,000 fresh infections daily and a conflict between the Centre and some States on the availability of vaccines.
- The variant is common in India — how much in every state though is unclear — and has a couple of defining mutations, E484Q and L425R, that enable them to become more infectious as well as evade antibodies. Though these mutations have individually been found in several other coronavirus variants, the presence of both these mutations together have been first found in some coronavirus genomes from India.
- Certain variants of the coronavirus, for instance, B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 — have been termed the ‘United Kingdom’ and ‘South Africa’ variant respectively because they have mutations associated with large spikes in these countries or reduce the efficacy of vaccines and are termed ‘Variants of Concern (VOC)’.
- According to a note from the INSACOG, the consortium of laboratories that’s sequencing a sample of genomes from coronavirus patients in India, B.1.617 was first detected in India on December 7, 2020. Though now present in at least eight countries, nearly 70% of the genome sequences that have the mutations characterising B.1.617 and submitted to the global database GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data) are from India. This is followed by the United Kingdom (23%), Singapore (2%) and Australia (1%)
Source – The Hindu