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‘Mutant variants are becoming prevalent’

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The UK and South African variant of SARS-CoV-2 have been classified as variants of concern due to their impact in increasing transmissibility and reducing efficacy of vaccines. (File Photo: AFP)

  • Genomic sequencing of over 13,000 samples collected from across the country showed that 11% them were infected with the UK strain while the B.1.617 “double mutant” variant that was discovered in India was found in 7%

NEW DELHI: The spike in covid cases in the second wave could be due to the increased prevalence of mutant variants of SARS-COV2, especially in Delhi, Maharashtra and Punjab, National Centre for Disease Control director Sujeet Kumar Singh said on Friday.

NEW DELHI: The spike in covid cases in the second wave could be due to the increased prevalence of mutant variants of SARS-COV2, especially in Delhi, Maharashtra and Punjab, National Centre for Disease Control director Sujeet Kumar Singh said on Friday.

“In Punjab, we found that the UK strain was the primary variant. In Maharashtra, B.1.617 (the double mutant) variant is over 50%," he said. In Delhi, both the UK strain and B.1.617 are increasing in prevalence, as found after genome sequencing of randomly collected positive samples.

“In Punjab, we found that the UK strain was the primary variant. In Maharashtra, B.1.617 (the double mutant) variant is over 50%," he said. In Delhi, both the UK strain and B.1.617 are increasing in prevalence, as found after genome sequencing of randomly collected positive samples.

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“The scenario is still unfolding, but we have seen a rise from 28% of samples having UK variant in the second week of March to 50% in the last week of March, and if we just try to correlate the surge we are seeing in Delhi, I think it directly correlates with the type of variant which we are observing," Singh said.

However, while these variants are becoming prevalent in different pockets of the country, overall, their prevalence is low. Singh said that genomic sequencing of over 13,000 samples showed that 11% of them were infected with the UK strain, while the B.1.617 variant was found in 7% of the samples. The South African variant, which sees significantly reduced vaccine efficacy, has been found in less than 1% of the total samples.

Since 22 January, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), the government’s group of laboratories running genome sequencing tests, has tested over 15,000 samples, which includes international travellers and the wider community.

India has reported 5.63 million cases since January, indicating that genome sequencing has been conducted on less than 0.3% of the total positive cases. This is much lower than the target of 5% of total samples set by the Centre.

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