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Dreaded B.1.617 Variant 'Double Mutation' Behind Gujarat’s Deadly Covid-19 Surge

A medic administers Covaxin, an Indian government-backed experimental Covid-19 vaccine, to a health worker during its trials, at the Gujarat Medical Education & Research Society in Ahmedabad on November 26, 2020. (REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo)

A medic administers Covaxin, an Indian government-backed experimental Covid-19 vaccine, to a health worker during its trials, at the Gujarat Medical Education & Research Society in Ahmedabad on November 26, 2020. (REUTERS/Amit Dave/File Photo)

Government officials say about 40% of the new cases and 55% of the deaths have the variant present.

The massive surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths for the past one month in Gujarat has been largely triggered by the dreaded B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, commonly known as the double mutation.

“About 40% of the new cases and 55% of the deaths have the variant present. It shows both virulence and the higher lethal nature of the variant. While the overall viral sequencing profile has other variants too, the dominant variant and strain would have impact on treatment protocol and vaccination strategy,” a senior state government official was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

Dr Mukesh Maheshwari, a city-based pathologist, said both the Centre and state government authorities have attributed the current wave to this variant.

“A study by NIV in Pune had found this variant in 61% of the samples from Maharashtra. States like Karnataka also have a sizable number of patients with this variant based on data available in the public domain,” he said.

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Why is it called double mutation?

Experts said the B.1.617 variant has over 17 mutations.

“But two of them — L452R and E484Q — are of significance to us. The first one was found in two strains of the US, whereas the second was found in strains from Brazil and South Africa. Here both the mutations are present together,” said Dr Urvesh Shah, professor of pathology at GCS Hospital.

Both the mutations are said to have higher transmissibility and immune escapism.

“Not all variations and mutations are bad for us — as we have seen in the past one year, some have even reduced infectivity and mortality,” said Dr Maheshwari.

However, he added, there’s a need to have “much more data and analysis to periodically assess the virus’ profile.

“We would surely see more variants as the pandemic progresses,” he said.

Experts said greater mutation of the existing virus included change in the dominant symptoms. For example, diarrhea/vomiting has been replaced by sore throat, now entire families are getting infected and there’s a faster spread of the virus in bodies.

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first published:May 08, 2021, 13:59 IST