Virus variant detected in India has double mutation
Published : Saturday, 17 April, 2021 at 11:01 PM Count : 233
The discovery of 77 UK cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in India could be a cause for concern, a health expert has said.
Officials have designated it a "variant under investigation" (VUI) rather than a "variant of concern" (VOC), such as the variants first detected in Brazil and South Africa.
Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia, said the variant features two "escape mutations" - E484Q and L452R - which "are causing people to be concerned".
"There's laboratory evidence that both of these are escape mutations," he said.
"Basically, applying what we know about other human coronaviruses would suggest that this is going to be even less controlled by vaccine.
"But we don't know that for certain at the moment."
India is battling a massive second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, with new restrictions imposed in Mumbai, New Delhi and other cities.
There are also growing calls for officials to speed up the country's vaccination programme as hospitals are swamped with patients.
Deaths in India rose by 1,185 over the past 24 hours - the highest single-day rise in seven months - to reach a total of 1,74,308, the health ministry reported.
Experts have raised concerns about the spread of more contagious and deadlier variants of the disease, particularly given widespread participation in religious festivals and political rallies. A Lancet study this month estimated that India's fatalities could double by June.
Hundreds of people at a religious gathering in Haridwar in the north of the country tested positive for Covid-19 as tens of thousands of devout pilgrims jostled to take a holy dip in the Ganges as part of the "Kumbh Mela" festival.
India has so far administered 115 million vaccine doses, the highest globally after the United States and China, but that covers only a small fraction of its 1.4 billion people.