B.1.617 – The double mutation strain of coronavirus, which was first found in Maharashtra, may have been first detected on 5 October.
According to an Indian Express report, the mutations, E484Q and L425R, were found in the virus’s critical spike protein months ago and should have alerted bells, but instead may have encountered a lack of urgency and guidelines behind falling Covid cases.
A third mutation in this strain B.1.617 has now been identified and this may only further offset India’s problems.
The Ministry of Health was reportedly informed of the new mutation and warned that it would become a “triple mutant”.
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The triple mutant varieties have seen new mutations both inside and outside the spike protein (two different types of mutations) and samples are seen from Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh.
Surprisingly, among states where strain B.1.617 was seen, West Bengal showed more specimens with this lineage than Maharashtra.
Sources from the Indian SARS CoC-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) – a group of 10 laboratories carrying out the gene sequencing of the virus – also told DH earlier that scientists had spotted a new lineage of the SARS-CoV-2 known as B1. 618 among the specimens of West Bengal.
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But the persistent refusal of a National Institute of Virology based in Pune to share the sequential data with other laboratories in the consortium slows down the whole process of identifying new lineages and subsequent studies.
“West Bengal seems to be becoming the hot spot for such mutations. The new triple mutant could make the virus even more capable of preventing a human immune response,” one of the known people told Indian Express.
Experts have not yet been able to ascertain how much the variant has contributed to the second wave of the virus and how transmissible and fatal it is. More importantly, we have yet to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine in the face of these new variants.
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Laboratories that continue this gene sequence have faced several problems. Funding is the most important concern. Other than that, no clear path and goals also hindered the process.
“It (the double mutant) was detected far back. It was recovered in November and December. By February, this variant is exploding, almost coinciding with the rise in Maharashtra. The discovery should be acted upon immediately. But nothing happened. Now we are fighting a fire, “a scientist told the publication.