Covid mutation in India ‘variant of concern’, says WHO

Covid mutation in India ‘variant of concern’, says WHO
Dr S Swaminathan
GENEVA, MAY 10 (AFP): | Publish Date: 5/10/2021 1:05:11 PM IST

 A Covid-19 variant spreading in India, which is facing an explosive outbreak, appears to be more contagious and has been classified as being “of concern”, the World Health Organization said Monday.

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19 first found in India last October seemed to be transmitting more easily than the original version of the virus, and might possibly have some increased resistance to vaccine protections.

“There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility of the B.1.617,” Maria Van Kerkove, the WHO’s lead on Covid-19, told reporters, also pointing to early studies “suggesting that there is some reduced neutralisation”. “As such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level,” she said, adding that more details would be provided in the WHO’s weekly epidemiological update on Tuesday.

The devastating wave has overwhelmed India’s healthcare system, and experts have said official figures for cases and fatalities are much lower than the actual numbers. It has for some time been feared that B.1.617-- which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics — might be contributing to the alarming spread. But until now, WHO has listed it merely as a “variant of interest”.

Now it will be added to the list containing three other variants of Covid-19 — those first detected in Britain, Brazil and South Africa — which the WHO has classified as being “of concern”. They are seen as more dangerous than the original version of the virus by being more transmissible, deadly or able to get past vaccine protections.

When it comes to the B.1.617 variant, Van Kerkove stressed that for the time being “we don’t have anything to suggest that our diagnostics or therapeutics and our vaccines don’t work”.

Indian mutant more contagious: Dr Soumya
Indian mutant more contagious: Dr Soumya
WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan on Monday said a prelim data has showed that Indian variant is more contagious and transmissible, adding that there is heterogeneity in the country in terms of spread of the infection. Urging people to get the vaccines, she said inoculation is important as it will reduce the severity of coronavirus.
In a exclusive interview to CNBC-TV18, Swaminathan said that the double mutation strain consists of variants found in Brazil and South Africa and it evades body’s immune response.
“Surge in India increases chances of more dangerous variants emerging. WHO is concerned about number of cases and deaths in India. Globally, cases and deaths have plateaued, not in South Asia. South East Asia is seeing case rise owing to India. Overall numbers hide what is going on, need to go deeper in state, local level data,” she said.

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