Coronavirus update: The WHO said that studies have highlighted that the spread of the second wave has been much faster than the first in India.
The ‘Indian strain’ of the coronavirus, also known as B.1.617 has been found in at least 17 countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday. Apart from India, the double mutant strain was majorly found in the United Kingdom, USA, and Singapore, it added.
“As of 27 April, over 1,200 sequences have been uploaded to GISAID and assigned to lineage B.1.617 (collectively) from at least 17 countries,” WHO said. GISAID is a global science initiative and primary source established in 2008 that provides open access to genomic data of influenza viruses and the coronavirus.
The WHO said that studies have highlighted that the spread of the second wave has been much faster than the first in India.
“Preliminary modelling by WHO based on sequences submitted to GISAID suggest that B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other circulating variants in India, suggesting potential increased transmissibility, with other co-circulating variants also demonstrating increased transmissibility,” the report by the global health body said.
“Other drivers may include challenges around the implementation and adherence to public health and social measures (PHSM), and social gatherings (including mass gatherings during cultural and religious celebrations, and elections). Further investigation is needed to understand the relative contribution of these factors,” it said.
As per the WHO, the B.1.617 variant comprises several sub-lineages, including B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3. Both B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 were first identified in India in December 2020, and have been detected at increasing prevalence concurrent to the major upsurge observed in the country.
B.1.617.3 was first detected in India in October 2020, but relatively fewer viruses matching this sub-lineage have been reported to date, the report said. The B.1.617 variant has three new spike protein mutations. Two mutations — E484Q and L452R — are in the area important for antibody-based neutralisation. The third mutation — P681R — allows the virus to enter cells a little better.
The WHO said that globally, new COVID-19 cases increased for the ninth consecutive week, with nearly 5.7 million new cases reported in the last week. India accounts for 38 per cent of the global cases reported during the period, it added.