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Business News/ News / India/  COVID subvariant JN.1 in Kerala raises concerns; expert says 'markedly different from prior versions...'
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COVID subvariant JN.1 in Kerala raises concerns; expert says 'markedly different from prior versions...'

Concerns arise as the JN.1 subvariant of COVID-19 is detected in Kerala, with a case found in a 79-year-old woman. The JN.1 variant, a descendant of BA.2.86, was first detected in the United States in September 2023.

Covid-19 cases in IndiaPremium
Covid-19 cases in India

With the COVID subvariant JN.1 detected in Kerala, triggering concerns about its impact in the southern state. First detected in the United States in September 2023, the JN.1 variant is a descendant of BA.2.86. Official sources told news agency PTI, “A case of COVID-19 sub-variant JN.1 was detected in Kerala on December 8."

As per the sources, the sample from a 79-year-old woman had returned a positive result in an RT-PCR test on November 18, adding that she had mild symptoms of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) and had recovered from COVID-19.

Earlier, an Indian traveller was also detected with JN.1 sub-variant in Singapore. The person was a native of Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirapalli district and had travelled to Singapore on October 25. No increase in cases was observed in Tiruchirapalli district or other places in Tamil Nadu following the strain being detected in them. “No other case of JN.1 variant has been detected in India," the source said as reported by PTI.

Also Read: Singapore government implements preventive norms for travellers amid Covid scare

Speaking of the vaccine effectiveness, the source added that initial data suggests that updated vaccines and treatments will still offer protection against JN.1 sub-strain. 

Coming back to Kerala, where JN.1 has been discovered in the southern state, surveillance has been conducted by the India SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), a multi-laboratory, multi-agency, pan-Indian network tasked with sequencing and monitoring new dangerous Covid-19 variants.

Should India be worried?

While speaking to news agency ANI, INSACOG Chief, NK Arora said, "This variant has been isolated and reported in November; this is a subvariant of BA.2.86. We have some cases of JN.1." Further adding, he said, “India is keeping a vigil and that's the reason no hospitalisation or severe disease has been reported so far."

According to Rajeev Jayadevan, the National Indian Medical Association Covid Task Force's co-chairman, "After a seven-month gap, cases are rising in India. In Kerala, there are reports of people getting Covid, but the severity so far appears to be the same as before."

"Genome sequencing pinpoints what type of virus is circulating in each region. For example, in India, during the April 2023 wave, XBB sublineages were found to cause it. However, the December genome sequencing results are still coming in and early results show that a JN.1 case was found in Kerala," he added.

Jayadevan said that the JN.1 variant is capable of spreading faster and evading immunity.

"JN.1 is a severely immune-evasive and fast-spreading variant, markedly different from XBB and all other prior versions of this virus. This enables it to infect people who had previous Covid infections and also people who were vaccinated," he said.

Rajeev Jayadevan also noted that JN.1 has been reported in various countries.

"JN.1 is rising quickly in several Western countries, and India being connected by international travel with the rest of the world should be no exception," he said. 

On 15 December, China detected seven infections of the COVID subvariant JN.1, reported news agency Reuters, quoting the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration. The authorities in China have claimed the prevalence level of JN.1 is 'very low' in the country, however, they refused to rule out the possibility of it becoming the dominant strain in China due to factors including imported cases, as per Reuters report.

Covid Cases in India

On Friday, India saw a single-day rise of 312 new Covid infections which was highest since May 31. The tally of active cases in the country has increased to 1,296. The death toll was recorded at 5,33,310 while the country's case tally stands at 4.50 crore. Speaking of Kerala alone, the TOI reports stated that the state had 479 Covid cases in November while the surge was seen this month as fresh 825 cases were reported till 8 December. The report further added that the state saw one death in November while two died in December. 

(With inputs from PTI, ANI)

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Published: 16 Dec 2023, 01:02 PM IST
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