Multiple variants of coronavirus have been detected in over 10,000 samples collected from all across India. The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a grouping of 10 National Laboratories that was established by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on December 25, has detected "variants of concern" in 10,787 positive samples.The Centre, however, said genomic variants of various viruses are a natural phenomenon and are found in almost all countries. The health ministry has said though (variants of concerns) VOCs and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, they not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states.
These include 736 samples positive for viruses of the UK (B.1.1.7) lineage; 34 samples found positive for viruses of the South African (B.1.351) lineage; 1 sample found positive for viruses of the Brazilian (P.1) lineage.
INSACOG carries out genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating COVID-19 viruses, and correlating epidemiological trends with genomic variants. The Centre says genome sequencing and analysis have been carried out on samples from arriving international travellers, contacts of those positive for VOC and community samples from most states at 10 INSACOG partner laboratories.
According to the health ministry, samples collected from Maharashtra shows that compared to December 2020, there has been an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations, which lead to "immune escape" and "increased infectivity".
It said mutations have been found in about 15-20 per cent of samples and do not match any previously catalogued VOCs. It also clarified that they have been categorised as VOCs but require the same epidemiological and public health response of "increased testing, comprehensive tracking of close contacts, prompt isolation of positive cases and contacts as well as treatment as per national treatment protocol" by states/UTs.
Similarly, from Kerala, 2,032 samples were sequenced. The N440K variant, associated with immune escape, has been found in 123 samples from 11 districts. This variant was earlier found in 33% of samples from Andhra Pradesh, and in 53 of 104 samples from Telangana. Also, it has been reported from 16 other countries including UK, Denmark, Singapore, Japan and Australia.