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India host to 7,569 coronavirus mutants, shows study


(This story originally appeared inon Feb 20, 2021)HYDERABAD: The novel coronavirus is perhaps the first infectious organism in recent times to form thousands of its variants across the globe.

In India alone over 7,569 coronavirus variants have been analysed since the pandemic virus was first recognised in Wuhan. This is despite the fact that not enough samples are sequenced by scientists in the country.

According to a research publication by a team of scientists from city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), there are 7,569 variants in circulation in the country.

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CCMB scientists alone have far provided an analysis of over 5,000 coronavirus variants and how they have evolved.

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“The novel variants that are worrying many countries globally have been identified with only a low prevalence in India so far. These include variants with immune-escape E484K mutation and the N501Y mutation with higher transmission rate. However, their apparent low prevalence might be simply because not enough sequencing has been done. More coronavirus genomes need to be sequenced across the country to accurately identify the emergence of these and other new variants,” said Dr Rakesh Mishra, director, CCMB.

Mishra, who is also corresponding author on the study, said a few novel variants are spreading more in some states. “We now have emerging evidence that N440K is spreading a lot more in southern states. Closer surveillance is needed to understand its spread properly,” he said.

Beginning with one variant about a year ago, the novel coronavirus has turned into numerous variants. For instance, a variant, A3i, had mutations that were predicted to make its spread slower. The study confirms that it was overtaken by the globally prevalent A2a variant, carrying the D614G mutation, by June 2020. The A2a variant has remained in global dominance for the major part of last year.

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