Many citizens of India have been affected due to the second wave of a novel coronavirus in the country. But what’s driving the surge in cases? Is it the new variant of the virus? The variant known as B.1.617 has been registered in 17 countries worldwide raising a huge concern as the cases rise amid the oxygen crunch without basic healthcare facilities, which the country confronts now.
What is the Indian variant B.1.617?
It consists of two vital mutations named E484Q and L452R to the outer spike portion of the virus that connects to human cells. Both mutants are individually discovered in other coronavirus variants, but they have been combined for the first time in India. Terming this as a “variant of interest”, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the predominant lineage of B.1.617 was first spotted last December in India -prior to this – a version was identified in October – a variant of SARS-CoV-2.
It added that it may have mutations that would enable the virus to spread faster than before, and cause severe disease or evade vaccine immunity.
Where has the B.1.617 been discovered?
It was first reported from Maharashtra in January where 19 samples from various districts were put in place, and B.1.617 was found in four of them. Then 234 samples were placed from 18 districts, 151 samples from approximately 16 districts, had this variant in February, and of the 94 samples, 65 in March.
Maharashtra districts, namely Amravati, Nagpur, Akola, Wardha, Pune, Thane, Aurangabad, and Chandrapur have shown strong evidence of the presence of B.1.617. Fewer samples were put in place in other districts, and the variant was discovered in some. Sequencing of more samples awaits.
Who is driving the surge in cases across the country?
The WHO states that more study is needed on a priority basis as it’s difficult for them to say that the Indian variant is behind it. Laboratory-based studies of limited sample size reveal that it could be increased transmissibility. It has become cumbersome to figure out because the B.117 variant first spotted in the UK is the reason for spikes in some parts of India. UK variant cases nearly doubled during the second half of March in India’s national capital, believes Sujeet Kumar Singh, director of the National Centre for Disease Control.
Well-known US disease modeller Chris Murray from the University of Washington said that a surge of COVID infections in India in a short period of time shows an “escape variant” may be overpowering any prior immunity from natural infections in those populace. He said, “That makes it most likely that it’s B.1.617.”
He admonished that gene sequencing data on the novel coronavirus in India is sparse and that numerous cases are also being supported by the UK and South African variants.
Carlo Federico Perno, Head of Microbiology and Immunology Diagnostics at Rome’s Bambino Gesù Hospital stated the Indian variant couldn’t alone be the reason for India’s massive surge, saying instead to many large social gatherings that took place.
Will vaccines work against the COVID variants?
Vaccines could act as a safeguard against variants. White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci mentioned earlier this week that preliminary evidence from lab studies reveal Covaxin, a vaccine manufactured in India, seems capable of neutralising the variant.
Moreover, Public Health England said it was working with global associates but as of now, there is no evidence that the Indian variant and two related variants lead to more severe disease or the vaccines currently placed is less effective in a human body.