Indian Covid mutation found in 1/3 genomes in Andhra

Indian Covid-19 mutation 'N440k' found in one-third of Andhra Pradesh's coronavirus genomes

Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana are the other states where the new mutation has been detected

Representative image/Credit: AFP Photo

Indian researchers have found 19 coronavirus variants circulating in India with "escape mutations" that allow them to evade the antibodies generated by immune systems and one such variant is spreading fast in Andhra Pradesh.

The genetically tweaked variant with a mutation named N440K has been found in nearly 34% of the 272 SARS-CoV-2 genomes analysed from Andhra Pradesh. The variant has also been seen in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana.

Read: Where are we in the Covid-19 vaccine race?

At least one case of Covid-19 reinfection – confirmed by genetic sequencing and reported in a hospital at Noida – was caused by this variant.

"Andhra Pradesh has a population of 4.5 crore. If one of the Covid-19 genomes isolated from this state carry this variant, then we should watch out for the strain,” Vinod Scaria, one of the scientists at CSIR’s Institute for Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi and a member of the team that found the new strain told DH. The paper has been uploaded in a preprint server and yet to be peer-reviewed.

The team analysed 6,370 Indian Covid-19 genomes and found that 2% of the genome all over the country was carrying the N440K mutation that originated around July-August in Asia.

On Saturday, a national task force on Covid-19 suggested doing genome sequencing of 5% of all Covid-19 cases nationwide. India carried out far less gene mapping compared to the UK (more than 157,000 sequencing) and the USA (in excess of 50,000).

IGIB has inked an agreement with the Kerala government to carry out a detailed genetic study of the Covid-19 in each of the 14 districts of Kerala.

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The new variant’s clinical significance is yet to be understood with scientists observing that further data and analysis would be required to investigate the potential impact of such variants on the efficacy of different vaccines.

“We don't know anything about this mutation’s clinical significance. We only saw its accumulation at one site and would be on the look-out to see if it reproduces elsewhere,” said Sridhar Sivasubbu, another IGIB scientist.

Another variant N501Y that made global headlines as the new mutated UK strain was present in 290 genomes, including genomes from the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, USA, Denmark and Brazil.In Australia, one mutation (S477N) was found in 67% of 14,000 plus genomes that were analysed.

The researchers studied more than 240,000 genomes from 133 nations and spotted 126 variants with immune-escape provisions. Eighty six of such variants were seen in 63 countries and 19 variations have been found in India.

Besides the N440K, other escape mutations have been seen in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, West Bengal, Telangana, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Gujarat and Delhi.

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