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article imageIndia detects new 'double mutant' COVID-19 variant

By Karen Graham     Mar 24, 2021 in Health
India has detected a "double mutant variant" of the novel coronavirus in 206 samples in the worst-hit western state of Maharashtra, a senior government official said on Wednesday.
The new "double mutant variant" was also detected in nine samples in the capital New Delhi, the director of the National Centre for Disease Control, Sujeet Kumar Singh, told a news conference, according to Reuters.
However, the Ministry said it could not be sufficiently established yet if the new variant or other variants of concern were behind the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in some states.
The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a group of 10 national laboratories under India's health ministry, carried out genomic sequencing on the latest samples. As we now have learned, some mutations, like the ones in the UK or South Africa variant lineages, can make the virus more infectious and in some cases even deadlier.
The BBC is reporting that Virologist Shahid Jameel explained that a "double mutation in key areas of the virus's spike protein may increase these risks and allow the virus to escape the immune system." The spike protein is used by the virus to penetrate human cells.
An analysis of the samples collected from India's western Maharashtra state showed "an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations" compared with December last year. "Such [double] mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity," the health ministry said in a statement.
"Though VOCs and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish or direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states," the ministry said.
Dr. Jameel added that "there may be a separate lineage developing in India with the L452R and E484Q mutations coming together".
India reported 47,262 cases and 275 deaths on Wednesday - the sharpest daily rise this year.
More about India, coronavirus, Variants, double mutation, Maharashtra
 
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