‘Indian strain’ of virus spreads faster, not more lethal than original: Experts
   Date :28-Apr-2021

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THE ‘Indian strain’ of the coronavirus carries higher transmissibility similar to the UK variant, but there is little evidence so far of it being more lethal than the original virus, experts have said. The B.1.617 variant of SARS-CoV2, also being called a ‘double mutant’ or the ‘Indian strain’, has been found prevalent largely in Maharashtra and Delhi that have been severely hit by a devastating second wave of the pandemic. In many cities in Maharashtra -- the worst-hit State in the country -- the B.1.617 variant was found in more than 50 per cent of samples on which genome sequencing was conducted, while the proportion of the UK variant was 28 per cent in the second week of March, Sujeet Singh, the Director of the National Centre for Disease Control, had said in a webinar on genome sequencing last week.
The number of coronavirus cases has exploded in Delhi and Maharashtra over the last few weeks and crippled the healthcare sector. Several hospitals in Delhi have reported an acute shortage of medical oxygen and are scrambling to save the lives of patients. Anurag Agrawal, the Director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), told PTI, “As far as we know, neither the UK variant nor this one (B.1.617) is associated with increased severity of illness or death. The UK strain is proven to have higher transmissibility and B.1.617 may have increased transmissibility.” “But this (that the B.1.617 variant has more transmissibility) has not been proven and there are several characterises to prove it and the studies have not been completed,” he said.
IGIB is one of the 10 laboratories spread across the country that are involved in genome sequencing of the virus. He, however, added that there is no comparison of which variant has increased transmissibility. “But looking at Maharashtra’s experience, it looks more transmissible, but it is yet to be proven. Looking at the general evidence, it (B.1.617) may be more transmissible,” he said.