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India’s Covid-19 double mutation causes concern

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Experts have expressed concern about the apparent high transmission of the “double mutant” variant

File picture: AP

A NEW “double mutant” coronavirus strain has been found in many Indian cities, raising concerns that the country’s second wave may be deadlier than the first.

On Sunday, India logged a record single-day increase of 261,500 new coronavirus cases and 1,501 deaths, pushing its Covid-19 case total to 14,788,109.

In comparison to December last year, a study of samples revealed “a rise in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations”, according to the BBC.

Experts in India have expressed concern about the apparent high transmission of the double mutant variant, saying that the B.1.617 variant is responsible for nearly 60% of all positive cases in India’s Covid-19 epicentre, Maharashtra.

It is feared that the double mutation would cause the virus to evade the body’s immune response.

Public health officials are also worried that the mutation is rapidly spreading through the country’s population of more than 1.3 billion.

According to the director of the National Centre for Disease Control, Sujeet Kumar Singh, about 20% of the samples in Maharashtra that contained the latest variant were located in Nagpur, a major commercial and logistics centre.

Nine more samples were discovered in New Delhi, which has seen a steady increase in infections over the past few weeks.

The overall rate of mutations has risen, with more individuals becoming infected, which means the odds of the virus developing an alternative method of transmission have increased.

“’Double mutant’ is not a scientific term. It is just another mutant which seems to be unique to India,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, the founder of the Centre for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in New Delhi, according to The Guardian.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, “these variants seem to spread more easily and rapidly than other versions, potentially leading to more Covid-19 cases”.

In lab studies, the South African variant (B.1.351) and Brazil variant (P.1) both have a central mutation, E484K, which may help the virus evade antibodies created by vaccines or by having had Covid-19, according to Sky News.

The Indian variant has the E484Q mutation, which is somewhat similar to the E484K mutation seen in the South African and Brazilian variants and the L452R mutation found in the Californian form.

According to the findings, the infectivity of the mutated E484Q and L452R is exceptionally large. Thus they also increase the spread and incidence of B.1.617.

“Having two of these mutations, which have been seen in other variants around the world, is concerning,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead officer on Covid-19, was quoted as saying.

India began its free vaccination programme on January 16, but so far only about 60 million shots have been administered.

At the beginning of April, the national vaccination campaign will enter a new stage in which people aged 45 and over will receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

India plans to vaccinate three hundred million people by the end of August.

The alarming double mutation has already been discovered in a number of nations, including the United Kingdom, the United States, Israel, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, among others, sparking travel bans and advisories, according to Forbes.

– African News Agency (ANA)