‘Two main SARS-CoV2 virus variants circulating’

Two main SARS-CoV-2 virus variants are prevalent across the country. While the so-called 'double mutant' or B.1.617, earlier mostly seen in Maharashtra, at 50% or more, Kerala and Karnataka in significant proportion, the "most infectious" among them - the UK variant, B.1.1.7, has been found 80% or more in Punjab and significant proportion in Delhi, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and neighbouring states, according to scientists of the CSIR-Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) on Wednesday.

“There is nothing new in any of these variants and they are transmitting from person to person as the earlier ones like the dominant A2a strain seen last year but showing the same clinical symptoms, infection severity and certainly do not appear to be more lethal or causing more mortalities as is evident from viral genome sequencing of the samples. The major cause of such a huge and sharp spread is people’s behaviour and any variant is only the substrate," affirmed former director and now advisor Rakesh Mishra and his colleague Divya Tej S.

In fact, Dr. Divya Tej has put out a twitter post with illustrations of the genome sequencing showing that the double mutant or B.1.617 is now fast replacing the earlier predominant virus strain of N440K observed extensively in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala from last year when swab samples were collected in July-August.

"In controlled cell culture this variant makes more copies but it does not necessarily mean it can compete with other variants just the same way in real life pandemic where new variants keep coming up. Our genome studies say that N440K is now diminishing, it is of no concern and being replaced by B.1.617," he said.

This ‘double mutant’ was noticed in October last year but started spreading in February-March this year with a reduction of N440K, “It coincides with the second wave seen in respective states as Maharashtra’s second wave was a one month and half earlier when compared to the four southern states. Variants play a role competing with each other, their game is completely dependent on human behaviour so it is possible to control if proper steps and precautions are taken, " explained Dr. Mishra.

He once again reiterated that instead of getting worked up about this or that variant, the main focus of people should be on "reducing the spread of coronavirus”.

“The more it spreads, especially when people cluster for protests, meetings, religious or political fests, family functions, etc., the more variants are likely to come up, the more mess we create by increasing uncertainties and fear. Immediate need of the hour is to avoid crowds anywhere for any reason, use face mask, maintain personal hygiene, ensure good ventilation at homes or offices, plus take the vaccine shots - these will prevent the prevent the spread of the virus," explained the senior scientist.

The most encouraging part in this gloomy scenario is that none of these variants has been found to escape the available vaccines effectiveness hence controllable. “We should consider ourselves lucky but you never know when a more lethal strain can come up, therefore, take precautionary measures now,” he added.

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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 7:24:36 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/two-main-sars-cov2-virus-variants-circulating/article34491628.ece

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