- B.1.617, along with British, Brazilian, and South African strains, was deemed a “variant of concern” by the WHO earlier this week.
- Since these strains are highly transmissible and lethal, they are considered more dangerous than the original virus.
- Antibody neutralisation is also lost in the ‘double mutant’ variant.
At a time when India is registering more new cases every day than the rest of the world combined, the country’s highly potent double mutant form has been tracked to as many as 44 countries around the world, raising concerns about the pandemic’s possible effect in the coming days.
The World Health Organization announced on Wednesday that the variant that has accelerated India’s devastating epidemic has now been discovered in many countries.
The B.1.617 strain of Coronavirus was first found in India in October of last year, was discovered in genome sequences uploaded to the GISAID open-access database “from 44 countries in all six World Health Organization regions,” according to the United Nations health agency, which added that it had received “reports of detections from five additional countries.”
Outside of India, the United Kingdom had the largest number of Covid-19 cases as a result of the variant.
The WHO designated ‘B.1.617′ – which includes three sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics – as a ‘variant of concern’ earlier this week, adding it to a list of three other variants: British, Brazilian, and South African.
These coronavirus variants are believed to be more dangerous than the original, novel form of the virus because they are either extremely transmissible and lethal, or they can get through the vaccine protection.
Preliminary evidence also suggested that the double mutant variant was more resistant to treatment “with the monoclonal antibody Bamlanivimab,” also indicated “limited reduction in antibody neutralisation.”
The outbreak of the B.1.617 variant, as well as other highly transmissible strains, is one of many factors contributing to India’s massive increase in new cases and deaths, according to the health agency.
Anurag Agrawal, director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, said on Tuesday that the ‘double mutant’ strain causes a moderate loss of antibody neutralisation, but that vaccines are very much effective against it.
“The tendency to lose antibody neutralisation is modest, but minimal. It isn’t true that a double mutation would result in a double loss of neutralisation. There is some lack of neutralisation, but not in huge amount. We anticipate that the vaccines will continue to work, even if they work a little bit less. According to the news agency PTI, Agrawal said, “They can prevent serious disease.”
With about 2.3 crore Covid-19 cases and over 300,000 new cases and 4,000 deaths every day, India is the second-worst-affected country after the United States.