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Double mutant COVID-19 variant detected in India; Here's what it means

It was detected first in Maharashtra's Nagpur in December last year. According to reports, this new and highly infectious strain of coronavirus, which may render vaccines less effective, has been detected in India.

Double mutant COVID-19 variant detected in India; Here's what it means
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The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday, March 24, said that a new “double mutant variant” of the coronavirus has been detected. This strain has two mutations and can cause sickness in spite of the immunity developed by natural infection or vaccines.

It was detected first in Maharashtra's Nagpur in December last year. According to reports, this new and highly infectious strain of coronavirus, which may render vaccines less effective, has been detected in India.

It is in addition to many other strains or variants of concern (VOCs) of the UK, South Africa and Brazil are already circulating in 18 states in the country.

At a briefing yesterday evening the Health Ministry said that, so far, the bulk of infections linked to this strain - around 20 per cent - have been reported from Maharashtra - 206 cases. Cases have also been reported from Delhi, Gujarat and Punjab, among other places, the ministry added.

The discovery of the faster-spreading strain, which comes exactly a year after the 24 March lockdown clamped to halt the pandemic, may force the government to put restrictions on public gatherings and add to the pressure on India’s health infrastructure.

The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a group of 10 national laboratories established by the health ministry in December, has been carrying out genome sequencing and analysis of circulating coronavirus and correlating epidemiological trends with genomic variants, reports stated.

Speaking on the same, Dr Anita Mathew, Infectious Disease Specialist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund said: “According to the analysis of samples from Maharashtra, the agency has revealed that compared to December 2020, there has been an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations in COVID-19. Such mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity. These mutations have been found in about 15-20 per cent of samples and do not match any previously catalogued variants of concerns (VOCs). These have been categorized as VOCs but require the same epidemiological and public health response of increased testing, comprehensive tracking of close contacts, prompt isolation of positive cases and contacts, as well as treatment as per the National Treatment Protocol defined by the ICMR. We urge people to be extremely careful while venturing out, maintain all social distancing norms and hand hygiene. If you identify with any symptoms kindly get yourselves tested.”

A senior official of the National Centre for Disease Control that a total of 771 variants have been found from more than 10,000 samples being subject to genome sequencing. A total of 736 cases of UK strain, 34 South Africa strain and one Brazil variant have been traced so far in the country.

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