New Delhi Jagran News Desk: Even as India continues to reel under the unprecedented second wave of COVID-19, the discovery of a new triple mutant strain has set a new challenge in the country’s battle against the deadly virus.
After the double mutation, cases of triple mutation – where three different COVID-19 types combine to form a new variant – have been found in parts of the country. According to reports, provinces like Maharashtra, Delhi and West Bengal are believed to have triple mutant-driven cases.
Here’s what you should know about the triple mutation variant of COVID-19:
What is a triple mutation variant?
The B.1.617 variant, first detected in Maharashtra, contains mutations of two separate virus variants – E484Q and L452R. The third mutation evolved from the double mutation where three different COVID types combined to form a new variant – B.1.618.
The E484Q mutation (reported in UK and South African variants) and the L452R mutation (found in the California strain) have been associated with much larger antibody binding and escape capabilities.
Vinod Scaria, a scientist at the Scientific and Industrial Research Council (CSIR-IGIB) Institute of Genomic and Integrative Biology in New Delhi, explained in a Twitter thread that the new strain is characterized by the deletion of two amino acids (H146del and Y145del), as well have E484K and D614G variants in spike protein. All of this, according to him, helps increase infectious abilities.
B.1.618 – a new lineage of SARS-CoV-2 found mainly in India and characterized by a specific set of genetic variants including E484K, a major immune escape variant. pic.twitter.com/dtfQJp2S2B
– Vinod Scaria (@vinodscaria)
April 20, 2021
Is the third mutation variant more risky?
Scaria said that B.1.618 shares have been growing significantly in recent months in the state of West Bengal, along with double B.1.617 variance.
Only from more studies will the extent and degree of lethal infection of the third mutation be known. For now, only 10 labs across India are involved in virus genome studies.
“This is a more transmissible variant. It makes a lot of people sick very quickly. We have to keep tweaking vaccines. For that we need to understand the disease. But we need a war-based follow-up, “NDTV quoted Madhukar Pai, a professor of epidemiology at McGill University, as saying.
Why and how does a virus mutate?
Viruses are constantly rolling, as part of evolutionary biology. Some mutations weaken the virus while others strengthen it, allowing it to multiply more quickly or cause more infections.
“As the virus spreads, it has more opportunities to acquire mutations and evolve more quickly. This is a natural aspect of the virus life cycle but it is very important that we track these changes (virus surveillance) and following the important viral features associated with these mutations, “Dr Veena P. Menon, Faculty in Charge, Clinical Virology Laboratory, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, told IANS.
Although the SARS-CoV2, which causes the Covid-19 infections, has evolved at a much slower rate compared to Influenza or HIV viruses but as the number of infections rises, we observe numerous emergence of viral variants in fast.
With the increasing number of infections and the spread of infection, there are more opportunities for the virus to spread.
“As the infections are increasing at an alarming rate, it is highly likely that we will encounter more virus variants in our population. Some of these variants are being selected for faster transmission (spreading ) or ‘increased severity’ (more pathogenic) and also “immune escape (vaccine)”, explained Menon.
The evidence so far suggests that none of the important virus variants are associated with increased severity. However, increased transmission is associated with the UK variant (dynasty B1.1.7) while the variants from Brazil and South Africa show the ability to escape vaccine-induced immunity.
“Mutation of the respiratory virus is a natural process. This process is augmented in high-spread situations and the presence of vaccinated people in the community. We will see more variations in India in the future as well,” said Dr Harshal R. Salve, Associate Professor in Center for Community Medicine, AIIMS New Delhi, told IANS.