Coronavirus: West Bengal detects all six VOCs; B.1.1.7 dominates in India

India has detected the lineages B.1.1.7 (called UK variant), B.1.351 (South Africa variant), and P.1 (Brazil variant). However, the presence of all the VOCs was detected in West Bengal.

Six variants of concern (VOC) of coronavirus are dominating the global topography and India is consecutively struggling with three particular variants, i.e. the UK, Brazil, and South Africa, since the outbreak.

India is in the midst of a devastating second wave of COVID-19 – witnessing an unprecedented spike in the cases and deaths. The country is recording more than a quarter-million cases per day.

The Asian sub-continent has detected the lineages B.1.1.7 (called UK variant), B.1.351 (South Africa variant), and P.1 (Brazil variant).

Maharashtra reportedly carries half of the active caseload burden in India. Similar to last year, the state has yet again reported most of the contractions which almost close to 20 per cent cases showed the trace of ‘double mutant’ – an Indian variant called B.1.617 lineage.

An ANI report suggests, the VOC of lineage B.1.1.7 (UK variant) with higher transmissible capacity can be seen in Delhi.

In the second week of March, Delhi reported the UK variant in 28 per cent of the samples which later scaled up to 50 per cent in the fourth week.

Since then, Delhi’s hold over the novel coronavirus seems to be losing its hold as the national capital has repeatedly marked the highest number of active cases in the city for the past few days now.

However, in a shocking turn of events, West Bengal has detected the presence of all the VOCs.

While the entire country is reeling under the fury of Covid-19 and West Bengal has divided attention with much-hyped state assembly polling being held over eight rounds from March 27-April 29 for 294 seats.

Election Commission of India banned vehicle rallies and roadshows in West Bengal on Thursday, citing failure by political parties to maintain covid norms and safety precautions. Hitherto, Bengal has also seen polling in six phases and only two phases remain.

“At last report, of about 15,000 virus sequences, 11 per cent comprised these VOCs. Among these B.1.1.7 dominates in India with B.1.351 found mainly in West Bengal. Only 2 or 3 P.1 VOCs are detected so far,” Leading Virologist Dr Shahid Jameel said, as quoted by the news agency ANI.

An Indian variant lineage B.1.617 (also called double mutant and first seen in Maharastra) has reportedly spread to many other States.

“For example, it comprised only about 2 per cent of sequences from Maharashtra in January, but increased to about 15 per cent in February and about 35 per cent in March. Some other studies find its frequency to be about 60 per cent in Maharashtra,” Dr Jameel explained.

Meanwhile, the B.1.1.7 variant dominates in Punjab with over 80 per cent of viruses belonging to this lineage.

Dr Jameel reflected on West Bengal’s Covid-19 situation and asserted that it has all the VOCs. He said, “West Bengal has all the VOCs plus the B.1.617 at around 10 per cent frequency. This is an area to watch closely due to the prolonged elections and crowded rallies.”

Apart from viral lineages, several mutant viruses are circulating in the country at varying frequencies, reported the news agency ANI.

“Our vaccine penetration is very low at the population level. As of today, only 1.5 per cent people have received both vaccine doses and 8.5 per cent have received one dose,” leading Virologist Dr Shahid Jameel said, when asked about the vaccination process.

“Variant viruses have contributed to this surge. These variants are more infectious and sometimes lead to partial evasion of immune responses, leading to re-infection or breakthrough infections,” he added.
INSACOG that brings together 10 different national laboratories to propel genome sequencing and surveillance was notified in mid-January and started functioning in mid-February.

“In this time it has provided about 20,000 sequences, which is roughly 1 per cent of confirmed cases. This has allowed us a peek into what viruses are spreading in the community, and more importantly, which ones might be of concern in future,” Dr Jameel said, as quoted by news agency ANI.

However, the leading virologist maintained that more efforts are needed and more labs have to be brought in and more funds provided to ramp up activities.

The ANI report also mentioned that 15,135 samples have been sequenced by INSACOG till date in which 1,735 VOCs were found, suggests the NCDC data.

Pan India the figures as of now rests at 1,644 cases of the UK variant, 112 of the South African variant, and 732 of the Indian variant B.1.617 (double mutation).

Meanwhile, India continues to face the brunt of the second wave of Covid-19 followed by a crippling healthcare infrastructure. The leading demand for medical supplies has flagged concerns across the nation.

India reported close to 3.5 lakh covid cases each day with today’s latest official figures stands at 3,49,691 new covid cases, 2,767 deaths and 2,17,113 discharges in the last 24 hours, as per Union Health Ministry.

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