Hyderabad

Infectious COVID variant spreading rapidly across country

B.1.617.2, a sub-lineage of the so-called double mutated Indian variant of SARS-CoV-2 (B.1.617) which is more infectious, is currently increasing its footprint in the entire country and gradually even eclipsing the B.1.1.7 variant originated from the United Kingdom, said top scientists at the CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) on Monday.

“It is fast becoming the dominant strain, and very efficiently. It is also seen to be spreading even in Delhi and Punjab where the UK variant was earlier found to be prevalent to the extent of 80-90%. Cases may be coming down due to the lockdowns, but the virus is still around. Face masks are the only weapon apart from vaccination to prevent it from spreading,” said former director and now adviser to CCMB, Rakesh Mishra.

In the current second wave of the pandemic, the low Ct (cycle threshold) value has been apparent indicating the high viral loads, possibly contributing to more people getting infected. Similarly, it was also noticed that a significant number of those infected have been needing oxygen support.

“We have to analyse why this has been happening and if the disease is progressing faster by taking the samples from the hospitals, genome sequencing and have an interaction between doctors and scientists. What we have is anecdotal account and this needs to be backed by scientific research. This is the right time to do it when the pressure has somewhat eased on the healthcare system,” he observed.

The new mutation is being kept under close watch with 10 designated laboratories, under INSCOG or Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genome Sequencing Group, taking up genome sequencing of the patients’ swab samples from different geographical locations across the country.

“We are able to pick the information so far but we need to do epidemiological studies based on the data. With more labs joining this effort, we are going to increase our genome sequencing numbers to understand the virus transmission in the population. The virus will come out with new versions and we have to watch out for those which could escape our immune systems — trained by natural infection or by vaccination,” said the CCMB scientist.

The way out to prevent further surges is to ramp up testing and surveillance. “The biggest opportunity is when the cases are low, we should for the kill by continuing with the testing, tracing and isolation till we get rid of the pandemic status. If the face masks are worn properly over nose and mouth — surgical masks, triple-layered cloth masks or N-95 — it can protect any person against any variant without exception as the virus can only spread from person to person,” he affirmed.

This along with avoidance of “clustering of people will fetch the same results of a lockdown keeping the virus spread under control”, added Dr. Mishra.


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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 4:54:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/infectious-covid-variant-spreading-rapidly-across-country/article34691118.ece

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