Indian coronavirus variant on WHO’s radar

Geneva, Apr 16 (EFE).- The World Health Organization confirmed on Friday it had received data earlier in the week about a variant of coronavirus detected in India.

The variant has two mutations in its genome and was discovered at the end of 2020 in two Indian states, Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead of the WHO’s Covid response, told a press conference.

“There is an increasing proportion of cases of this B 617 (variant) that have increased since the end of last year,” she said.

The discovery of the new variant was the result of SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequencing carried out around the world to detect possible modification in the virus that could make it more transmissible or even lead to the ineffectiveness of tests or vaccines.

“The virus mutates, the virus changes over time, this is one variant of interest that we are following,” Van Kerkhove said.

She added that having two of these mutations was concerning because scientists had already seen them in other variants around the world and had led to increased transmissibility.

“Some of these mutations also result in reduced neutralization which may have an impact on our countermeasures, including the vaccines,” she said.

According to Von Kerkhove, the WHO is working with India and other countries to increase genetic sequencing in the world and detect and evaluate variants of interest.

Other variants were first identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Japan and Brazil and all spread to different parts of the world in recent months.

“The vaccines still work against these variants of concern, against severe disease and death, and that’s really, really important,” she said as she explained the Indian variant was on their radar, but that the anti-covid “system is being strengthened around the world.”

India on Friday registered a new daily record of coronavirus cases, with more than 217,000, in what constitutes the second wave of the pandemic in the country.EFE


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