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'Double Mutant' Variant Of The Covid-19 Virus Found In India

'Double Mutant' Variant Of The Covid-19 Virus Found In India
Examination of the Covid-19 samples collected from 18 states across India has revealed the existence of a new double mutant variant of the coronavirus as well as 771 others.

Reports said that out of a total of 10,787 samples of the virus, scientists there found 736 that were positive for the UK variant, 34 samples contained the South African variant while one for the samples had the Brazilian variant.

The report emerged even as there is a surge in Colvids-19 cases in the country in the recent weeks.
The Indian government however denied any link between these variants and the recent surge in infections.

As on Wednesday, there were 47,262 new cases of infections and 275 deaths which is the highest this year.

Genomic sequencing on the samples was carried out by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) which is a group of 10 national laboratories directly under the Health Ministry of the country.

Scientists said that the role of the genetic code of the virus is that of an instruction manual for it. While mutations are quite common in viruses, most of those mutations are considered to be insignificant and hardly result in any significant change in the ability of the virus to transmit or cause serious infection.
However some of the mutations such as the ones detected in the UK or South Africa variants have the ability to increase the infection rate and even be deadlier in some cases.

A double mutation is "two mutations coming together in the same virus", explained virologist Shahid Jameel. "A double mutation in the key areas of the virus's spike protein may increase these risks and allow the virus to escape the immune system and make it more infectious," he added.
Viruses use spike proteins to penetrate into the human cells.

An analysis of the Covid-19 samples that were gathered from patients in India's western Maharashtra state shows "an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations" compared to what was found in December last year, said the government. "Such [double] mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity," the Health Ministry said in a statement.

"There may be a separate lineage developing in India with the L452R and E484Q mutations coming together", said Dr Jameel.

But there was yet no established links between the mutations and the recent surge in cases, the government reiterated.

"Though VOCs [variants of concern] and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish a direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states."

This recent report was spurred on by pressure on the Indian government to step up genome sequencing efforts of the virus.

"We need to constantly monitor and make sure none of the variants of concern are spreading in the population. The fact that it is not happening now doesn't mean it will not happen in the future. And we have to make sure that we get the evidence early enough," Dr Jameel had said earlier this month.


Christopher J. Mitchell

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