New Coronavirus Variants Hit India during Second wave of Covid-19

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Dr. Shuvomoy Banerjee, PhD; Neucrad Health Desk; March 28, 2021

Mutated strains of Coronavirus from the UK, South Africa and Brazil have already entered India. However, the recent detection of the 2 new variants namely i) N440K variant and ii) E484K variant have gained much more attention and warnings from Indian Scientists and Physicians.

Presence of the New Coronavirus Variants in India:

Indian researchers have so far reported 240 new Covid-19 strains from all over the country. Collectively, these new variants have caused a sudden spike in the numbers of active coronavirus cases within a week! Interestingly, around 75% of the active Covid-19 cases of India are in Kerala and Maharashtra. However, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Punjab have been also facing a surge in the active Covid-19 numbers.

Both the N440K variant and E484K variant have been detected in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana. Pieces of evidence show that the N440K variant is spreading aggressively in the southern Indian states. 

Why worry about the new Coronavirus Variants in India?

The AIIMS director, Dr Randeep Guleria has alarmed about the new Covid-19 strains of Maharashtra for being highly transmissible than the original one. According to Dr. Guleria, “The new Indian strain is highly transmissible and dangerous and could cause re-infections for those who have previously developed antibodies”. 

This means that the main concern over the newly detected variants in India is because of the two following characteristics:

  1. The variants have a high rate of transmission 
  2. These variants have immune-escaping abilities from the existing antibodies against the original coronavirus. 
Neucrad Health Hub, a digital health platform, a brainchild of a NRI Neuroscientist, Biswarup Ghosh, PhD (Research scientist & science communicator) is planning to launch in India during early June, 2021.

Effectivity of the Vaccines against the new Coronavirus Variants in India:

For the vaccination program, India is utilizing i) the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute (Pune), and ii) Covaxin, developed by Bharat Biotech (Hyderabad) whose efficacy is not fully known yet.

In the context of the efficacy of the Indian vaccines against the new variants, Dr Guleria indicated that even if the vaccines show effectivity towards the new variants, the efficacy might be much less. Henceforth, an already vaccinated person might not be protected from getting Covid-19 disease but might have fewer severities due to the disease. 

Preventive Measures:

  • Endocrinologist Dr Shashank Joshi has recommended, “double masking” (wearing two layers of face covering) and the formation of micro-containment zones.
  • Sequencing of Coronaviruses is required to detect mutants, unusual shifts in the virus character. In this context, Dr VK Paul, Member (Health), NITI Aayog, reported that the apparent low prevalence of Coronavirus mutants might be simply because of less sequencing being done. Of note, “More coronavirus genomes need to be sequenced across the country to accurately identify the emergence of the other new variants”, said Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director, CCMB and corresponding author on the study. 
  • Restrictions/Night-Curfew/Lockdowns etc- In Madhya Pradesh, the Balaghat district (neighbour to Maharashtra) administration has implemented night-curfews and other restrictions. Punjab Chief Minister has announced restrictions on the number of people gathering indoor and outdoor and hinted about night-curfew if necessary. 

Let’s remember that Coronavirus has not vanished and hence, we all need to continue following physical distancing, wearing facial masks (recommended is double mask), washing hands with soap, disinfecting, sanitizing things as required. If the new coronavirus variants keep spreading and infecting people, then India might be affected by what is called the second wave of Covid-19 infection!

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References

  1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-70812-6
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/search/research-news/12079/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/search/research-news/12261/
  4. https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/98/7/20-253591/en/
  5. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200419/Scientists-unveil-novel-coronavirus-variants-in-India.aspx
  6. https://www.india.com/news/india/covid-19-variant-n440k-spreading-more-in-southern-states-reveals-study-warns-new-strains-to-keep-emerging-4438563/
  7. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-55472333

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