Second wave: The link between Covid-19 variants and the spike — Explained


Another variant B 1.1.7 which is known as the UK variant is also circulating in large numbers in the Northern states of the country and fuelling the surge.

The second Coronavirus wave has taken the country by surprise with its rapid spread in almost all parts of the country. While lack of Covid-19 appropriate behaviour by people has been held as one of the prime reasons for the wave, scientists are also analysing the role of new variants of Coronavirus, the Indian Express reported. Here is how mutations may have contributed to the rapid spread of Coronavirus cases in the country.

What are virus mutations?


Virus, with the progression of time, mutates and brings variations in its form which helps it spread better among the vulnerable sections of the population. Since the Covid-19 second wave began, several mutants and variants of Coronavirus have been reported to be circulating in different parts of the country. A variant called B.1.617 which was first found in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, and since been termed Maharashtra variant has been found to have more transmission rate and ability to dodge immune response also. Another variant B 1.1.7 which is known as the UK variant is also circulating in large numbers in the Northern states of the country and fuelling the surge.

While there appears to be a consensus among the scientists community that the rapid increase to some extent is on account of new variants they refuse to link severity and higher death rate with the newer variants of Coronavirus cases in absence of clinical research.

Are new variants the sole reason behind the spike?


Experts who have been analysing the variants in the country refuse the argument that new variants are the sole reason behind the high number of cases. Anurag Agrawal, who is the director of Delhi-based Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) told the Indian Express that Maharashtra variant may have led to a spike in the Vidarbha region of the state but that does not explain the rise in capital city Mumbai as not many cases of Maharashtra variant have come to notice in the city. Hinting at other plausible reasons, Agrawal said that reopening of local trains in February or some other sections of the city may have led to a spike in the number of cases.

However in the case of Punjab and Haryana, there is consensus that the UK variant is the central cause behind the sudden surge in the number of cases. A recent study found that more than 80 percent of the genome sequencing analysis cases were traced to the UK variant. As far as Delhi is concerned, genome sequencing has found the majority of UK variant cases. However, being the capital city it has people from all parts of the country coming and going and hence almost all variants have been traced in some number in the city.

Potentially dangerous variants


The government has already termed the Maharashtra variant as a variant of concern as it is leading to faster spread of virus and also leading to further mutations in the virus. Already, three sub-variants of the Maharashtra variant have been reported to be circulating in the country namely-B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2, and B.1.617.3. In addition to the Maharashtra variant, the UK and South African variants are also under close scrutiny of health experts in the country.

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