B.1.617.2 becoming dominant variant in India

A genome sequencing laboratory in New Delhi. - PTI
A genome sequencing laboratory in New Delhi. – PTI

INDIA:The United Kingdom has been closely watching the movement of the sub-lineages of the B.1.617 variant that originated in India – B1617.1, B1617.2, and B.617.3. Experts in genomic sequencing of COVID-19 variants in India have now revealed that cases which show B.1.617.2 are slowly eclipsing almost all other variants, including B.1.1.7 — the Kent variant that originated in the UK.

In Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, the B1.617.2 sub-lineage has almost taken over many cases that are being reported. Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Puducherry, Bihar are also showing more cases from this new sub-lineage. “If 100 samples are being genome sequenced, at least 25-30 samples have the B.1617.2 variant,” said a genome sequencing expert in Hyderabad. There is at least a 25-30 per cent chance of having this variant in cases in India.

“B.1.617.2 is the predominant lineage in the recent months. At least in Kerala from the recent analysis done, B.1.617.2 is the predominant sub-lineage in many districts in Kerala. In fact, the present wave during April and May months seems to be because of this variant,” said Dr Vinod Scaria, Scientist at CSIR-Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology (IGIB) in India.

As of May, the strain has already reached 48 countries. The British media reported that UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson was “anxious” about the variant. Some experts also recommended a pause in the planned lifting of restrictions in Britain.

Experts said the variant is 40-50% more transmissible as much as the original parent Kent variant or the B.1.1.7 and that now there are 95% chances that B.1.617.2 could become a dominant variant in the UK.

As of 22 May 2021, 7,322 sequences in the B.1.617.2 lineage have been detected worldwide since the sub-lineage was identified according to data on outbreak.info, with a 1% prevalence of this variant being seen globally. India has sequenced 1,124 samples of this variant with a cumulative prevalence of 15% till May 7, 2021.


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