In a new variant of the coronavirus detected in India, two mutations of the spike protein were found at once. This option can infect both people who have already been ill and those who have been vaccinated.
In India, the number of cases of coronavirus infection is rapidly increasing. In a country with a population of more than 1.38 billion people in recent days, more than 300 thousand newly infected people are registered per day. While no one can say for sure whether, and if so, to what extent, a new variant of the B.1.617 coronavirus is responsible, it is reasonable to assume that the mutation has something to do with the explosive increase in the number of infected people.
The Indian version is spreading across the planet
There are many examples where new variants of the coronavirus have contributed to an increase in the number of cases of infection in a particular country. As for the Indian version, some experts have already warned that humanity here is dealing with a kind of super mutation, which can quickly spread not only in India but also throughout the planet.
The Indian version of B.1.617 has already been identified in some countries. These include Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and Singapore. For example, in the United Kingdom, according to the British Ministry of Health, almost 80 cases of infection with the Indian variant have been recorded.
What is the main danger of B.1.617?
In the new version of B. 1.617, two mutations of the spike protein — the part of the virus with which it is introduced into the cells of the human body-were identified at once. Scientists have found that they facilitate the entry of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the body and thus contribute to infection. B.1.617 can potentially spread faster. There is also a risk of infection with the Indian variant in both people who have already had a coronavirus infection and those who have been vaccinated.
The fact is that, as explained by Professor of immunology at Imperial College London, Danny Altmann in an interview with the British newspaper Evening Standard, B.1.617 “certainly has mutations similar to those that elude the best neutralizing antibodies.”
Features of the Indian version
Mutations of the Indian variant were called E484Q / E484K. These are not unknown changes. They have already appeared in the South African version of B. 1.353 and the Brazilian P1. In some cases, the mutation could also be detected in the British variant B.1.1.7.
In addition, the L452R mutation, also detected in India, was previously detected in the California variant B.1.429. It could also be detected in the mutated virus that was spreading in Germany.
WHO does not yet consider option B.1.617 “of concern”
The WHO classifies the Indian variant as “of interest.” It is monitored but is not currently considered by the organization as a cause for concern. Dr. Jeffrey Barrett, director of the Covid-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, notes that the Indian variant has actually not been as widespread over the past few months, which, in his opinion, suggests that B. 1.617 is not as contagious as the British variant, known as B. 1.1.7.
However, some scientists assess the situation differently. In addition, recent events seem to prove them right. In the Indian state of Maharashtra, variant B. 1.617 currently causes more than 60 percent of all detected coronavirus cases. This showed the sequencing of the virus’s genome.
At the same time, however, Indian medical officials express concern that the number of sequencing operations performed is still too small to draw clear and unambiguous conclusions about whether the increase in the number of new infections is actually caused by B. 1.617.