With India recording over 2-lakh daily infections for four days in a row, Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) has taken up the task of decoding whether the new double variant-B.1.617- is driving the second wave.
To understand the genetic makeup or the code of the new variant, CCMB is conducting genome sequencing of samples collected from various states, including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka. The results are expected to be out in two weeks.
“The purpose of our study is to understand whether the new variant is carrying several mutations and triggering the surge," CCMB Director Dr Rakesh Mishra explained. “We don’t have enough research to understand if B.1.617 is more infectious than other variants,” he added. Dr Mishra also argued that it would be wrong to call the new variant a ‘double mutant’ as it reportedly comprises several mutations- apart from E484Q and L452R.
So far, the new variant, called B.1.617, has been detected in India with two mutations-E484Q and L452R. One must understand that it’s natural for viruses mutate all the time. Some changes weaken the pathogen while others strengthen it, causing it to spread at a faster rate, as has been the case with the new variants. The 50% of the Covid positive samples genome sequenced in Maharashtra- the worst-affected state in India, has confirmed the presence of B.1.167, whose origin is still being investigated.
It has also been traced in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala but accounts for less than 10% of the new cases. As far as Punjab is concerned, the UK variant- B.1.17 has been detected in more than 50% of the samples genome sequenced.
CCMB’s study is crucial to decode whether the existing vaccines will actively work on the new variants. For this purpose, they are culturing two main mutations-E484Q and L452R- to understand if the combination of these mutations has made the virus more lethal.
“We will get more clarity on when more samples are cultured and genome sequenced. Once we have more information about the new variants, we will be better equipped to deal with them," Dr Mishra said.
He also said that 80% of the cases are being driven by the reckless attitude of people and stressed that the only way to break the chain of transmission is to follow Covid-19 appropriate behavior.