The UK variant of coronavirus found in Punjab is a potential threat due to its efficiency in spreading, while the double mutant found in Maharashtra is a matter of concern, but not a cause to create panic, suggested CSIR-CCMB Director Rakesh Mishra.
Speaking with news agency Mishra said the UK variant has contributed to the surge in cases in Punjab.
“Somebody had travelled from the UK to Punjab, possibly in a group, and then people from this group would have gone to several places in Punjab, which has contributed to the surge,” said Mishra.
When asked why the UK variant has not been found majorly in cases in the neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi, Mishra said that it may be those infected with the UK variant in Punjab have not travelled to places outside the state, or there has not been a superspreader event so far.
However, it is a matter of time and there is a possibility that cases may show up later, Mishra noted.
The double mutant found in Maharashtra in 15-20 per cent COVID-19 samples sent for genome sequencing is a combination of two mutations—E484Q and L452R—the CSIR-CCMB Director said.
The L452R was found in patients in California, where experts believed that it led to higher spread of Covid-19 as it was a more infectious strain, while the E484Q has been found in Maharashtra.
Also, the E484Q shares similarities with the variants found in Brazil and South Africa, and it has resistance to vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.
Mishra said the double mutant found in Maharashtra is certainly a matter of concern, but there should not be any panic now.
He added that 452R was found in California, and it was considered to be more infectious, but we do not know what changes it has undergone so far. Also, the E484Q has not been studied well in India.
He clarified that, for example, if double mutant is found in 50 per cent of cases in some pockets, then what is the cause for the other 50 per cent cases in the same pockets?
“At this stage, we cannot link double mutant to the surge in cases in Maharashtra,” said Mishra.
He added that both vaccines, AstraZeneca and Covaxin, are working well against the Punjab variant and the double mutant found in Maharashtra.
Mishra emphasised that people should continue to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour—wearing masks, social distancing and hand sanitisation—to control the spread of the virus.