All Eyes on Maharashtra Vidarbha as ‘Indian Variation’ warns Scientists amid Second Wave

As the second wave of coronavirus takes India in a storm, international scientists are trying to decode the Covid B.1.617 variant that seems to be more infectious in India. Theory suggests that the variant first emerged in Maharashtra’s Amravati and caused a massive surge in neighboring areas in February, says a report by the Times of India.

The ‘Indian virus’ is said to be different from the UK, Africa or Brazilian variant. Vidarbha Maharashtra is now the hub of international media and researchers. Nagpur has also come on the Indian variation study map. He was quoted as “unlike the UK, or the African or Brazilian variant, discussed at the beginning of this wave,” said infectious disease expert Dr Nitin Shinde. The doctor thinks the surge in Amravati is also due to this variation. However, research has not yet concluded on this assumption.

“What we label as a double mutant variant is the B.1.617 variant of SARS-CoV2. Apart from other mutations, it has two notable mutations, E484Q and L425R, which can theoretically account for increased transmissibility as well as probable immune escape, ”said Dr Aparna Mukherjee, senior scientist at the Indian Medical Research Council (ICMR) , in an interview with News18. However, he said it is difficult to determine whether a double mutant is behind the second wave. “Double mutants were being identified even months before the surge started,” he said.

Several countries such as the UK and Hong Kong have added India to travel on the red list, while the United States has advised its citizens to avoid visiting India even if they are fully vaccinated, given the a new variation.

According to data from the eGlobal Initiative on All Flu Data Sharing (GSAID), B.1.617 was first discovered in India in samples collected in December 2020. The GSAID has genome sequence data from Indian samples until April 3, until the a variation found in 29% of samples in India.

Experts have expressed concern over the seemingly more infectious Indian variant. Dr Atul Gawande of the Covid-19 management advisory team of US President Joe Biden called it “extremely alarming”.

The deaths of the variant have not yet been investigated. A study by virology researcher Grace Roberts

from Queen’s University, Belfast says that this variation is about 20% more transferable than the earlier form.

However, a sigh of relief in all this is that the ICMR study has shown that Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN is effective against multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 and also neutralizes Covid-19 double mutant.

“The ICMR study shows that COVAXIN neutralizes against multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 and also neutralizes the double mutant strain,” ICMR said in a statement on Wednesday.

Covaxin is among the two vaccines to receive Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for Covid-19 treatment and is used in India and several other countries. Sputnik V has also received an urgent use authorization and the vaccination is likely to begin before the end of this month.

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