India: COVID-19 variants on the rise, most cases in Punjab

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A total of 771 variants of concerns (VOCs) have been detected in a total of 10,787 positive samples shared by the states and union territories, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

These include 736 samples positive for viruses of the UK (B.1.1.7) lineage, 34 samples of the South African (B.1.351) lineage and one sample of the Brazilian (P.1) lineage.

“Though VOCs and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish or direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states,” the Health Ministry said.

The samples with these VOCs have been identified in 18 states, the Ministry said.

The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a grouping of 10 National Laboratories, has been carrying out genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating Covid-19 viruses and correlating epidemiological trends with genomic variants.

Genomic variants of various viruses are a natural phenomenon and are found in almost all countries, the Ministry added.

Genome sequencing and analysis have been carried out on samples from arriving international travellers, contacts of those positive for VOC and community samples from most of the states at INSACOG partner laboratories which are 10 in number.
The analysis of samples from Maharashtra has revealed that compared to December 2020, there has been an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations.

Such mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity. These mutations have been found in about 15-20 per cent of samples and do not match any previously catalogued VOCs.

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A total of 771 variants of concerns (VOCs) have been detected in a total of 10,787 positive samples shared by the states and union territories, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
India’s two approved vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin are effective against the UK and Brazilian variants. Source: @ians_india/Twitter. 

From Kerala, 2,032 samples (from all 14 districts) have been sequenced. The N440K variant that is associated with immune escape has been found in 123 samples from 11 districts.

This variant was earlier found in 33 per cent of samples from Andhra Pradesh, and in 53 of 104 samples from Telangana.

This variant has also been reported from 16 other countries including the UK, Denmark, Singapore, Japan and Australia. As of now, these variants are said to be under investigation.

Punjab has reported the most number of coronavirus samples with mutations, followed by Telangana, Delhi, and Maharashtra, as per the state-wise data released by the Union Health Ministry on Wednesday.

Out of the 771 cases of coronavirus variants detected across 18 states, Punjab accounts for 336 cases, followed by 104 in Telangana, 69 in Delhi and 62 in Maharashtra.

Punjab has the most number of samples with the UK strain, while Telangana has the most samples with the South African strain. Maharashtra has one sample with the Brazilian lineage.

The Central government has said that both the present vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, are effective against the UK and Brazilian variant. Research regarding the effectiveness against the South African variant is currently underway.


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