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WHO warns that variant in India could be highly contagious | India News

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A variant of the virus that has been spreading rapidly in India and designated as a variant of concern for the World Health Organization (WHO) could be more contagious than most versions of the coronavirus, the agency said in a report it released Tuesday night.
The WHO emphasized in its report that it was not yet clear to what extent the variant, known as B.1.617, had contributed to the devastating surge that has crushed India in recent weeks. He cautioned that India, like many countries, is only sequencing a small fraction of positive samples, and that with so little surveillance, it is difficult to reach firm conclusions on B.1.617.
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The WHO study comes amid calls for nationwide restrictions in India to try to limit the death toll, as hospitals are saturated and crematoria burn nonstop. Experts also caution that it is not yet clear how much of a B.1.617 factor has played in the explosion of cases in India. They point to a perfect storm of public health mistakes, like allowing huge political rallies and religious festivals in recent months. It is possible that the variant is being lifted by the surge, and not the other way around.

WHO speculated that another variant known as B.1.1.7, first identified in Brittany and now dominant in the US, it could also be driving the swell in cases. It is not yet clear if B.1.617 causes a more serious Covid-19. But until more genetic sequencing is done, it is impossible to know if the variant is the culprit. Stacia Wyman, a genomics scientist at the University of California, Berkeleysaid WHO had made the right decision. He pointed to the fact that the variant had already spread to at least 49 countries. “This appears to pose the greatest threat at the moment in terms of transmissibility, and many countries report increasing trajectories of variant B.1.617,” he said.

B.1.617 first came to light in October 2020. It had a number of mutations, some of which have been shown to be of concern in other variants. Other mutations could make it difficult for antibodies produced by infections with other variants to adhere to them. Studies on antibodies produced by vaccinated people also suggest that they work less successfully against B.1.617.

The WHO researchers determined that B.1.617 is spreading rapidly in India and accounts for more than 28% of positive test samples. The change suggests that B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other variants circulating in India, with the possible exception of B.1.1.7. Virologist Gagandeep Kang said there was insufficient data to conclude whether any of the variants were contributing to India’s second deadliest wave. According to reports from the hospitals, Kang said that it appeared that B.1.617 was causing more serious illness but that, again, there was insufficient data to draw conclusions.

Times of India

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