Maharashtra Covid second wave: Double mutants in 61 per cent of the 361 samples sequenced; civic bodies complain about lack of communication from labs, Centre
Maharashtra is gradually becoming a hotspot of the double mutant variant of Covid-19. The National Institute of Virology (Pune) confirmed that 61 per cent of the samples sent for genomic sequencing had the double mutation E484Q and L452R, now classified as B.1.617 lineage, an Indian Express report said.
A total of 361 samples were tested at the genome sequencing laboratory in Pune between January and March this year. However, experts in this field have observed that with such a small sample size, a conclusion cannot be drawn about the spread of the mutated virus.
On the other side. the authorities and officials of Maharashtra civic bodies are also complaining about the lack of communication, a written circular from the Centre about the findings of the sample analysis. The Central government announced the presence of the double mutant variant in 15 to 20 per cent Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra but did not hold it responsible for the second wave in the state. The genome sequencing results were shared by the NIV officials to all district heads of government laboratories, but the state government is yet to receive a written report on the same. Health Minister Rajesh Tope has asked the Centre for a detailed written report on the genome sequencing on the same.
Officials said that they had repeatedly asked the Centre that a mutation was their concern that is resulting in a spike in cases and a different strategy needs to be adopted, but the Centre maintained that there is no need for any new mechanism to contain the spread of the infections. , Maharashtra Health Secretary Dr Pradeep Vyas said. According to But Dr Sujeet Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control, one cannot directly conclude the surge is caused by the variant.
NIV data showed that the double mutant variant appeared in three samples in Akola and in one sample in Thane in January and by one month it was seen in 50 per cent samples in 13 districts in Maharashtra, Amravati, Akola, Bhandara, Hingoli, Gondia and Nagpur, Chandrapur, Wardha, Pune and Yavatmal. In March two to 14 samples carried the variants in districts like Mumbai, Aurangabad, Palghar, Jalna.
The B.1.617 lineage has two kinds of spike proteins. The E484Q type can slip past the immune response but the L452R type has the ability to escape mutation. Both together are less virulent but more transmissible and infectious. The B.1.617 lineage was found in most sequenced samples in Amravati and Akola.
Meanwhile, experts and health officials are urging for faster results if required district0wise sequencing of genome sequencing as the pattern of the new variant is unpredictable and the state needs to act fast. Dr Gagandeep Kang, professor of microbiology at Christian Medical College, Vellore, has raised the question of the quality of surveillance. India is genome sequencing only 1 per cent or even less Cocid-19 sample. Experts are also stressing for a random collection of samples to assess where exactly the double mutant virus is found.
Maharashtra officials also want the conclusion to be drawn soon from the genome sequencing data as that will help them designate containment zones better According to an Amravati health official there is no official report on the samples sent in February. Both the suspected cases of re-infection in Amravati had the B.1.617 lineage. In Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, North India also re-infections are associated with N440K mutations.
Amravati saw a sudden surge from 150 to 1000 cases in February and went on a lockdown. The infection counts are still rising but the pace is slower.