COVID-19 Update: Presence of UK, Brazil and South Africa variants and their spread in India

Coronavirus Outbreak in India
Surat Municipal Corporation conducts screening of Covid19 at Surat Airport. (File Photo)

After going through the first wave of a novel coronavirus, India now faces the second wave of it with mini lockdowns and stringent restrictions placed at various parts of the country.

In regard to last year, the virus has transformed in terms of its shape whenever it replicates. It has started mutating and when it mutates more than once, it’s called a variant.

It started with one, and now it has over 12,700 recognised mutations. Some variants have led to the surge in worldwide coronavirus cases.

The Covid-19 virus variants are usually known by the name of the country where they were first discovered.

Different types of variants

  • UK variant or B.1.1.7: Identified in September last year, this variant transmits faster and is infectious to more people than before. It is also called the “British Covid-19 variant” or “Kent variant. The UK has restricted the spread of this variant, whereas it is causing menace in the other countries of the world. Nearly, 40% of the cases in Asia have this variant. As per various reports, the UK variant could be the reason behind the spike in coronavirus cases in India, especially in the state of Punjab where 80% of 400 samples examined turned out to be the UK variant. Its symptoms include body ache, fever, cough and loss of smell and taste. People have also complained of rashes, conjunctivitis, upset stomach, sore throat and discolouration of toes and fingers.
  • Brazilian variant or B.1.1.28: It is perilous than the previous variant. Associated with the Brazilian Amazon, this variant caused the healthcare disaster in Brazil. Experts state that it spreads faster and perhaps, deadlier too.
  • South Africa variant or B.1.351: First identified in South Africa, it has now transmitted to nearly 20 countries, comprising India. There has been no evidence yet if it makes a patient ill. This variant had led South Africa to discard the use of AstraZeneca vaccine. Now, a study claims that it might escape the protection given by the Pfizer vaccine too.
  • Covid-19 N440K variant and Covid-19 E484Q variant: Dr VK Paul, Niti Aayog Member (Health) had confirmed that these variants account for a large number of coronavirus cases in states such as Maharashtra and Kerala.
  • Covid-19 B.1.36 variant: It is a variant found in a particular region in a large number of Covid-19 cases in Bengaluru.

The top three variants have their own families, implying there have been numerous mutations one after another in these but with the original defining mutation staying intact. These three variant families, or lineages, have been discovered in several countries, and they account for the spike in cases in Europe and Brazil. It has become a concern for India as they spread in the second wave.

Commonly identified Covid-19 mutations in India:

Covid-19 Double Mutant Strain: The Double Mutant Coronavirus Strain or merger of more than two Covid-19 variants has been discovered in samples in states like Delhi, Punjab and Maharashtra. Termed as the “B.1.617 variant”, it consists of mutations from two separate coronavirus variants, namely L452R and E484Q, and has been found in nearly 20% samples in Maharashtra.

Covid-19 Triple Mutant Strain: The “Triple Mutation Covid-19 variant” contains a strain of three Covid-19 variants listed above. Being a complex strain, this coronavirus mutation is said to be the reason behind the spike in cases in Maharashtra and Delhi in the second wave, and as per experts, it’s perilous.

Moreover, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said its study has found out that Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin neutralises numerous variants of SARS-CoV-2, including effectively neutralising the double mutant strain.