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Double mutant variant behind surge in COVID cases in Jammu division: Genomic data

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Govind Sharma

JAMMU, May 14: The genomic data and epidemiological trend have indicated that double mutant variant of SARS CoV-2 (B.1.617) is behind surge in cases in certain States including Jammu Division of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, in the month of March and April 2021.
The genomic data was shared with States by National Genomic Consortium (INSACOG) of ten laboratories including Genome Sequencing laboratories (RSGLs) of Department of Biotechnology, CSIR, ICMR and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, which have been undertaking whole genome sequencing for COVID-19 for detection of Variants of Concern (VOCs) and mutations.
As per the data shared by INSACOG, B.1.617 has three sub-lineages-B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3. It disclosed that in the month of March 2021, B.1.617.1 had more presence than B.1.617.2 in some of the Northern States in the country but during April 2021, B.1.617.2 showed an increasing trend, surpassing the earlier predominant UK variant (B.1.1.7).
Genome sequencing of 158 samples from Jammu Division, which was done by Biotechnology lab at National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Delhi, revealed presence of UK variant in more than 60% samples in March. However, in April, the percentage of UK variant dropped to 47 % and the B.1.617 increased to 38% that led to sudden surge in Corona cases in Jammu Province.
Samples sequenced from Delhi showed presence of UK variant in 30% samples and B.1.617 in only 15% in the month of March but in April, B.1.617 was found in 60-70% samples with B.1.617.2 found in more than 50% samples whereas presence of UK variant decreased to less than 20 %. The State of Uttarakhand also saw a steep increase in number of cases due to B.1.617 lineage in April with more than 60% samples showing homology to the lineage.
As the double mutant variant (B.1.617) is a combination of E484Q and L452R mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 that cause COVID-19, the genomic analysis by INSACOG has revealed that both E484Q and L452R mutations are associated with increased infectivity of the virus.
B.1.617 has been labeled as Variant of Concern by World Health Organization. According to the genomic data, B.1.617 has some mutations which increase transmission, and which could also make (it) resistant to antibodies that are generated by vaccination or by natural infection.
While disclosing the data, INSACOG stressed upon the concerned authorities of the States to keep strict surveillance in the districts reporting new Variants of Concern and take up stringent public health measures including enforcement of strict implementation of COVID appropriate bahaviour.
It recommended the States to increase preparedness for testing, ramping up oxygen-supported hospital beds and critical care units, availability of trained manpower and essential drugs in hospitals and quick transportation of COVID patients.

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