Covid-19 Variants in India: As the information came in that the indigenously-developed Bharat Biotech Covaxin has shown efficacy in neutralising multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 and the double mutant effectively, the spotlight has once again moved on to the number of Coronavirus variants in India. We at Financial Express Online have assimilated information regarding all the prevalent Covid-19 strains and mutations in India.
What are the Types of Covid-19 Variants found in India?
Broadly speaking, there are four Coronavirus strains in India which are responsible for most Covid-19 cases and several others that are locally concentrated and region-specific variants.
a) Covid-19 Brazil variant – formally known as the “B.1.1.28” variant: This Covid-19 variant is said to have originated in Brazil and is reportedly responsible for the 1.4 crore cases and over 3.5 lakh deaths due to the Coronavirus in the South American country. India has seen a fair share of the Brazilian Coronavirus strain cases.
b) Covid-19 South Africa variant – formally known as the “B.1.351” variant: Over 15 lakh people have been affected by the outbreak of this variant in South Africa and over 50,000 lives have been lost in the African continent due to it. Few cases of the South African Coronavirus strain have been reported in India as well.
c) Covid-19 UK variant – formally known as the “B.1.1.7” variant: Seen in large number of cases in and around Delhi and Punjab, It is also know as the “British Covid-19 variant” or “Kent variant”. A large number of cases in the second Coronavirus wave have been attributed to the UK Coronavirus variant. Apart from the usual Coronavirus symptoms of fever, body ache, persistent cough and loss of smell and taste, those affected by the British Covid-19 strain have also complained of conjunctivitis, rashes, upset stomach, sore throat and discolouration of toes and fingers.
d) Covid-19 N440K variant and Covid-19 E484Q variant: These variants have been responsible for a large number of Coronavirus cases in Maharashtra and Kerala, Dr VK Paul, Niti Aayog Member (Health) had earlier confirmed.
e) Covid-19 B.1.36 variant: It is a region-specific variant found in a large number of Covid-19 cases in Bengaluru.
The Covid-19 virus variants are commonly referred by the name of the country where they were first discovered.
Covid-19 virus mutations in India
Apart from the Covid-19 India variants, there are several mutations of the Coronavirus in the country as well. As the virus spreads it mutates and replicates, and some consider the mutations to be the reason behind the deadlier second Covid wave in India.
In the beginning the Covid-19 outbreak (reportedly from China’s Wuhan) was a single strain outbreak, but as it moved from people to people and across countries it mutated. ICMR experts have said that they have been constantly watching the behaviour of Coronavirus mutations in the country.
The known Covid-19 mutations in India are —
Covid-19 Double Mutant Strain:
The Double Mutant Coronavirus Strain — or simply, a combination of more than two Covid-19 variants — has been found in samples in Punjab, Delhi and Maharashtra. Classified as the “B.1.617 variant”, it contains mutations from two separate coronavirus variants — L452R and E484Q, and has been found in close to 20% samples in the state of Maharashtra.
Covid-19 Triple Mutant Strain:
As the name suggests, the “Triple Mutation Covid-19 variant” involves a strain of three abovementioned Covid-19 variants. A more complex strain, this Coronavirus mutation is considered to be the reason behind the surge in cases in Maharashtra and Delhi in the second wave, and experts say it is much more contagious.
Covid-19 variants and the Covaxin Factor:
However, in a sigh of relief, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) tweeted on Wednesday that its study has shown that Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin neutralises multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 and effectively neutralises the double mutant strain as well.
Reports stated that the ICMR-National Institute of Virology has successfully isolated and cultured multiple variants of concern of SARS-CoV-2 virus: B.1.1.7 (the UK variant), B.1.1.28 (Brazil variant ) and B.1.351 (South Africa variant).
The apex health research body said that it has demonstrated the neutralisation potential of Covaxin against the UK variant and Brazil variant. Notably, ICMR-NIV was recently successful in isolating and culturing the double mutant strain B.1.617 SARS-CoV-2 identified in certain regions of India and several other countries.