Covid-19: UK variant most prevalent in Jammu and Kashmir

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Among all the variants which are said to be behind the steep surge in Covid-19 cases in Jammu and Kashmir, the UK variant is the most prevalent as it has been found in 23 cases so far.

As per the data available with—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), many mutations have been found in 71 samples in J-K till April end which include UK variant, Indian double mutation and mutations without linage number.

The data reveals that mutation B.1.1.7 (UK variant) was seen in 23 samples. This mutation was first described in Kent, UK, and has the potential for increased infectivity and spread in the community. This mutation is fast spreading in the USA and many other countries. In India, B.1.1.7 (UK mutant) is highly prevalent in Punjab and is also seen in a high proportion of cases from Delhi and Haryana

As per the data mutations are similar but not exactly like the UK variant that was seen in 10 samples. Ten samples had mutations similar to UK mutations with the same signature and have the potential infectious as the B.1.1.7 variants.

B.1.617 (Indian double mutation) was seen in 7 samples. Besides the VOC, this is the first variant in India to have two mutations that enable the virus to evade antibodies and increase infectivity.

The data said that it is believed that the ‘double mutant’ virus was flagged last month as having a bearing on the spread of the pandemic in India. “The variant is common in India — how much in every state though is unclear.”

“Though this virus lineage has 15 defining mutations, two spike mutations, E484Q and L425R potentially enable the virus to be more infectious as well as evade antibodies. These mutations have individually been found in several other coronavirus variants, but the presence of both these mutations together have been first found in some coronavirus genomes from India,” it said.

Mutations without a linage number but have a signature to have increased infectivity were found in 17 samples besides that mutations without a linage number but with a signature have immune evasion were found in 13 samples, adds the data.

Data adds that 50 samples (17.4%) had mutations that have a potential for increased infectivity and 20 samples (7%) had mutations that have a potential for immune evasion and can cause breakthrough infections in persons who had COVID-19 disease earlier and recovered or who have been partially or fully vaccinated by any of the vaccines available in India.

Meanwhile, experts said that there is a need to increase genetic sequencing of the samples as variants are rampant in J-K.

Dr M S Khuroo who is chairman of Covid Advisory Committee said that sequencing of samples must be intensified and testing of samples which have been sent to reference laboratories must be expedited by personal contact with the team and also support/follow up by the administration.

“There is an intense need to follow these data longitudinally to evaluate how the variant gambit in J-K evolves. A possibility of establishing a next generation sequencing facility in J-K needs to be explored,” Khuroo said.

Khuroo said that as variants are rampant in J&K, the pandemic will show increased infectivity and breakthrough infections.

“So, persons who have had COVID-19 disease and recovered or those who are partially or fully immunized can show breakthrough infections. Thus, COVID appropriate behavior needs to be implemented and followed by all. Samples from such people should be sequenced expeditiously to understand the nature of breakthrough infections,” he said.

Khruroo said that medical personnel are at risk for breakthrough infection. “There is evidence that such infections may not come from patients only but by the spread of infections in cafeterias and canteens where masking practice cannot be fully implemented. The medical fraternity needs to be made aware of this phenomenon”— (KNO)

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