The B.1.617 Variant of SARS-CoV-2 is Likely Behind the COVID-19 Surge in India

India reported 314,835 new COVID-19 cases on April 22nd, 2021, which was a world record for a single day. Sequence sampling demonstrates that new viral variants are most likely behind the worrying situation, as the recent surge of cases captured global attention.

Image credit: ACROBiosystems

There are two mutations that characterize the B.1.617 variant (aka double mutant), E484Q and L452R, known to be associated with increased immune escape and infectivity. Their coexistence on the same virus is highly concerning and unprecedented even though these two mutations have been identified separately on other SARS-CoV-2 strains.

This variant is thought to be responsible for the deadly spread of cases in Maharashtra and other states and was first identified in October 2020.

B.1.618 (aka triple mutant), another variant that was discovered to be circulating in Bengal, is thought to have evolved from existing double mutations and in addition to E484Q and L452R, it contains V382L in its spike.

The term ‘double mutant’ and ‘triple mutant’ are not exactly appropriate, and this needs to be clarified, as these new strains have many more defining mutations on the spike protein.

B.1.617 has been found in 18 countries around the globe, according to GISAID Database. Researchers have not yet established the link between the mutations, clinical outcomes and vaccine efficacy.

Three vaccines have been approved in India as part of its ongoing vaccination program: Covishield developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca; Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech; and the recently approved Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine.

Presently, there are encouraging but very preliminary results that Covishield vaccines provide protection against the double mutant variant.

References

  1. Nextstrain
  2. GISAID - hCov19 Variants
  3. Sputnik V, Covishield, Covaxin: What we know about India's Covid-19 vaccines - BBC News
  4. Covishield effective double mutant variant of coronavirus latest news | India News – India TV (indiatvnews.com)
  5. Covid-19: India authorises Sputnik V vaccine as cases soar to more than 180 000 a day | The BMJ

About ACROBiosystems

ACROBiosystems is a leading manufacturer of recombinant proteins and other critical reagents to support the development of target therapeutics. The company employs an application-oriented development strategy, with a particular focus on product design, quality control, and solution-based support. Our products and services enable anyone in the field of drug development to have a more intuitive and streamlined process.

To respond to the coronavirus pandemic, ACROBiosystems has developed SARS-CoV-2 antigens specifically designed and optimized for serological test kits, including Spike-derived antigen S1, RBD, and Nucleocapsid protein. Proteins have been supplied to diagnostic companies in large quantities.


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Last updated: May 17, 2021 at 6:04 AM

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