THD NewsDesk, New Delhi: In an unsettling development, two new mutant strains of the novel coronavirus have reportedly reached Indian shores. These South-African and Brazilian mutant strains are in addition to the UK variant of Covid-19, which has already infected around 187 people so far.
As per the research held by the top medical researcher Balram Bhargava, the Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG) had detected the presence of contagious South African and Brazilian variants of SARS-CoV-2, associated with faster spread of novel coronavirus infection.
The South-African variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been detected in four people in January 2021. They were all foreign returnees, respectively from Angola(1), who was found with ‘B.1.351’ variant, Tanzania(1) and South Africa(2), added Balram Bhargava. He further said “The ICMR-National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune is attempting to isolate and culture the SA variant strain from the samples of these four returnees and experiments to access vaccine effectiveness are underway”.
While one person was detected with the variant in the first week of February, the increased transmissibility has caused the variant to spread around 15 countries so far. India is confirmed with one case of Brazilian covid strain as detected in one of the returnees from Brazil in the first week of February. The traveller, along with other contacts have been quarantined, and the Brazil variant patient has also been successfully isolated at ICMR-NIV, Pune, added Bhargava.
Unlike the UK variant detected in December last year, where we saw mutation in the spike protein, with these two variants of SA and Brazil, the mutation is in the receptor-biding domain (RBD), which make the possibilities for virus to be able to bind to human ACE2 receptor in lungs with ease, added Bhargava.
“The B.1.351 variant emerged independently in South Africa in mid-December 2020. It is reported that this variant has multiple mutations, including in the receptor binding domain of the spike protein. Majority of cases reported in South Africa are due to B.1.351 variant which has spread around 44 countries, and recently India has been detected with the same variant strain”, said Bhargava.
“While the Brazil variant that is ‘P.1 Lineage’ emerged independently in Brazil in early January 2021. It also has mutations in receptor-binding domain of spike protein and increased transmissibility. The variant has spread across 15 countries so far and is attributed to a large scale of re-spike of cases in Brazil, particularly in Manaus”, Bhargava added.
Regarding the vaccines, on 7th February, the South African government announced a temporary hold on the unveiling of University of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by Serum Institute of India as per the study conducted by University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, on accounts of fact which reports that the vaccines only offered “minimal protection” against mild and moderate cases of Covid-19 infections.
However, World Health Organization announced that from the primary analysis of data it is important to note that the Phase III trail of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has revealed that with major viral issues though not SA variant, the vaccine offers protection against severe disease and death. Therefore, WHO extends its focus to determine the vaccines’ effectiveness in curing illness pertaining to B.1.351 variant.
As the emergence of two variants is a matter of concern now, government is simultaneously trying to adopt measures to check flights and enable authorities to look out for passengers, said Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. “100 percent RTPCR test and genome sequence was conducted, which in result worked well, therefore similar measures will be adopted to keep a check for flights to restrict the entry of SA and Brazilian virus strains into the country”, Bhushan further added, and said that flights from South Africa and Brazil to India are routed through Gulf nations.