hi INDiA Copyright 2020
No sooner than you thought all the talk of new Covid-19 variants was over, there is news of yet another one: AY.4.2. But what is it, where did it come from and should we be concerned?
AY.4.2 is what is termed a “lineage”. These are labels given to branches of the Covid-19 evolutionary tree to illustrate their relatedness. They are overseen by the diligent Pango network, a joint team of researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, who act as the custodians of lineages and handle the assignment of new ones.
Origins of AY.4.2
If we go back to April of this year, we can trace the origins of AY.4.2. Our team in United Kingdom’s Northumbria, working as part of Cog-UK – the British consortium that sequences the genomes of Covid-19 samples to see how the virus is changing – had just sequenced two samples connected via travel history to India.
At the time we knew the lineage circulating in India was B.1.617, but the cases we had sampled did not match this. Variants are distinguished by the different mutations they have in their genetic material and, looking at the mutations in our samples, it appeared our cases were missing some of the commonly accepted mutations of B.1.617 but also…