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COVID-19 Outbreak Explained: What Is The “Double Mutant” Variant Of Coronavirus Found In India?

According to experts, research is going on to check if the variant, where two mutations come together in the same virus, maybe more infectious or less affected by vaccines

COVID-19 Outbreak Explained: What Is The "Double Mutant" Variant Of Coronavirus Found In India?
Highlights
  • Double mutant variant has been found in some states in India
  • Mutations is a common phenomenon in viruses: Experts
  • The new variant has double mutations- E484Q and L452R

New Delhi: As the country has been facing another wave of the coronavirus pandemic with the number of cases rising every day, several new variants have been coming up of the virus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. On Wednesday (March 24), the Ministry of Health and Family (MoHFW) said that the scientists who have been studying the genome (the complete set of genetic information of an organism) of the novel coronavirus have identified a “double mutant” variant in the country. It said that this new variant has been detected in samples from some states and Union Territories including Maharashtra, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Delhi, Gujarat, Punjab among others.

Also Read: Mutations Are Not Riding The Current Surge Of COVID-19 In India: Dr VK Paul, NITI Aayog

What Is The “Double Mutant” Variant?

According to Dr Rakesh Mishra, the Director of Center For Cellular & Microbiology, in Hyderabad, where the ‘double mutant’ variant was first sequenced,

Mutations in viruses are common. Like all viruses, the coronavirus keeps changing in small ways as it passes from one person to another. However, most are insignificant and do not cause any change in their ability to transmit or cause infections. Some though, like the ones in the United Kingdom or South Africa, can make the virus more infectious and, in some cases, even deadlier.

Earlier in the pandemic, only one mutation was seen in the spikes of the receptor of the virus that helps in binding the virus with host cells. Receptors in the virus produce an immune response in the host body. Over the past year of the pandemic, thousands of such mutations have been identified, said Dr Mishra. He explained that a ‘double mutation’ is when two mutated strains of a virus come together to form a third strain.

The new mutation reported in the country on Wednesday is the result of the combination of the E484Q which is an indigenous strain and L452R, a foreign strain.

Also Read: Coronavirus Mutation May Have Made It More Contagious, Finds Study

Is The New Mutation Another ‘Variants Of Concern’?

According to Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS-Delhi, because the mutations in the virus are normal and expected, the medical community’s concern lies in what is called as the “Variant of Concern”. He further explained that these “Variants of Concern” are those variants that have some clinical consequences like either those mutations cause an increase in the number of cases or cause more severe cases or cause more mortality or have an immune escape mechanism which means that the people who have already suffered COVID-19 have a high chance of reinfection and those who have been vaccinated are not protected adequately even after being vaccinated. Currently, as per the Union Health Ministry, there are three previously discovered mutations- first noticed in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil which are the “Variants of Concern”. These variants have, so far, been found in at least 18 states and UTs.

Explaining about the concerns related to mutations, Dr Sushila Kataria, Senior Director, Internal Medicine Department, Medanta said that some mutations in the spike gene can make the virus more virulent or can help the virus become more resistant to the antibodies and thus escape the body’s immune response. A combination of more than one mutation can enhance this in the virus. However, according to Dr Mishra, as of now, mutations cannot be deemed responsible for the surge in COVID-19 cases in the country. He said,

The new strain is efficient, but it is not yet a super spreader. There is no reason to believe that it is more deadly, just yet. But more investigation is required to understand this.

Nevertheless, what is confirmed, according to the experts is that as long as the virus is allowed to spread from person to person, more variants are going to form. Too many mutations can affect the efficiency of vaccines, said Dr Kataria, adding that even though there are vaccines available, there is still a need to stop the virus from spreading.

While talking about the impact of the new variant on the effectiveness of the vaccines- Covishield and Covaxin that are being used currently for inoculating people against the coronavirus, Dr Mishra said,

So far there is no reason to believe vaccines in India – Covishield and Covaxin – will not work against these new strains. But experts say the time has come to bring more vaccines to India. Vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna have better efficacy rates and have been proven to act against the new strains. This is the need of the hour.

The Union Health Ministry said that Genomic sequencing (a testing process to understand the complete genetics of an organism) is being done by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a group of 10 national laboratories under India’s health ministry, and epidemiological studies are continuing to further analyse the situation. So far, the bulk of infections linked to this strain – around 20 per cent – have been reported from Maharashtra – 206 cases, the ministry added.

Also Read: COVID-19 Outbreak Explained: What Is Coronavirus Mutation And What Are The Dangers?

NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

World

24,06,78,961Cases
20,23,40,977Active
3,34,39,331Recovered
48,98,653Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 24,06,78,961 and 48,98,653 have died; 20,23,40,977 are active cases and 3,34,39,331 have recovered as on October 18, 2021 at 4:17 am.

India

3,40,81,315 13,596Cases
1,89,6946,152Active
3,34,39,331 19,582Recovered
4,52,290 166Deaths
In India, there are 3,40,81,315 confirmed cases including 4,52,290 deaths. The number of active cases is 1,89,694 and 3,34,39,331 have recovered as on October 18, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
Maharashtra

65,91,697 1,715

32,230 994

64,19,678 2,680

1,39,789 29

Kerala

48,54,321 7,555

88,186 3,292

47,39,270 10,773

26,865 74

Karnataka

29,83,459 326

9,479 58

29,36,039 380

37,941 4

Tamil Nadu

26,87,092 1,218

14,814 208

26,36,379 1,411

35,899 15

Andhra Pradesh

20,60,472 432

6,034 159

20,40,131 586

14,307 5

Uttar Pradesh

17,10,028 9

119 10

16,87,011 19

22,898

West Bengal

15,80,530 624

7,421 24

15,54,132 634

18,977 14

Delhi

14,39,390 32

320 6

14,13,981 38

25,089

Odisha

10,35,077 443

4,542 68

10,22,250 508

8,285 3

Chhattisgarh

10,05,654 16

183 2

9,91,901 14

13,570

Rajasthan

9,54,390 2

42 2

9,45,394 4

8,954

Gujarat

8,26,290 10

207 6

8,15,997 16

10,086

Madhya Pradesh

7,92,684 5

84 12

7,82,077 17

10,523

Haryana

7,71,076 15

123 9

7,60,904 6

10,049

Bihar

7,26,026 5

48 4

7,16,317 1

9,661

Telangana

6,68,955 122

3,924 55

6,61,093 176

3,938 1

Assam

6,06,468 205

3,436 46

5,97,082 245

5,950 6

Punjab

6,02,035 27

227 8

5,85,264 16

16,544 3

Jharkhand

3,48,430 7

122 1

3,43,173 8

5,135

Uttarakhand

3,43,756 9

178 1

3,36,181 8

7,397

Jammu And Kashmir

3,31,062 95

843 12

3,25,793 107

4,426

Himachal Pradesh

2,21,437 131

1,303 5

2,16,414 125

3,720 1

Goa

1,77,522 60

604 6

1,73,572 62

3,346 4

Puducherry

1,27,396 52

585 13

1,24,961 64

1,850 1

Manipur

1,22,737 104

1,422 0

1,19,418 102

1,897 2

Mizoram

1,12,848 249

11,633 1,143

1,00,829 1,389

386 3

Tripura

84,321 16

104 4

83,401 12

816

Meghalaya

82,953 55

845 32

80,673 86

1,435 1

Chandigarh

65,302 3

25 3

64,457 6

820

Arunachal Pradesh

54,987 7

140 30

54,567 37

280

Sikkim

31,749 4

174 8

31,184 12

391

Nagaland

31,611 40

248 12

30,689 28

674

Ladakh

20,878 2

36 10

20,634 12

208

Dadra And Nagar Haveli

10,676 1

4 1

10,668

4

Lakshadweep

10,365

0 0

10,314

51

Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,641

9 0

7,503

129

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