SARS-CoV2 variants under investigation require more clarity on the relevance of mutations: NCDC chief

Considering the speed at which Covid-19 cases have increased in Maharashtra, the head of the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Sujeet Singh, said that “variants of SARS-CoV2 were doing the under investigation ”and requested more samples from the State.

“We need more clarity on the relevance of mutations and combinations which are particularly important. We asked for more samples from Maharashtra ”, Dr Singh

Speaking to Union Health Ministry officials, Singh said there were several districts of concern in Maharashtra, where there had been an increase of more than 2 to 300 percent of case between March 1 and March 15.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan told the Indian Express that these are not districts that have a high absolute number of cases, but that they are among those that have seen the strongest incremental increase over the last 15 days and are therefore of concern.

These include Nanded, which has seen a 385% increase in cases over the last fortnight, Nandurbar (224%), Beed (219%), Dhule (169%) Nashik (157%), Jalgaon ( 147%), Bhandara (140%), Nagpur (122%), Chandrapur (95%), Ahmednagar (72%), Buldhana (65%), Aurangabad (58%) and Akola (20%).

“As the state requests more samples for genomic testing, ensuring appropriate behavior for Covid is critical,” Dr Singh told The Indian Express.

He pointed out, however, that mutations are a regular phenomenon of RNA. “Unless these mutations are linked to the public health scenario we are seeing now, only then can we only say that they are worrisome variants. For now, these are variants under investigation. We need to do more co-relation and therefore requested more samples from Maharashtra. More scientific evidence is needed to say for sure that Maharashtra’s skyrocketing can be attributed to new variants, ”Dr Singh said.

State health officials have already submitted more than 1,200 samples from Maharashtra for genomic testing to both the Pune-based National Institute of Virology and the National Center for Cell Science. While Pune leads the districts with the most cases, cities like Nagpur (which accounts for a quarter of Mumbai’s population) and Aurangabad, which have more than 2,000 cases per day, are of concern, officials said. of State.

Among the samples from Maharashtra, two mutations – E484Q and L452R – were identified. Officials said more samples were being tested. However, it has been reported in other studies that E484Q can escape neutralization of antibodies and that L452R can increase the rate of infection. The initial samples that showed a mutation came from Akola and Amravati and further larger studies are underway.

“We do not have specific signals that there is a particular variant leading to the pandemic outbreak – but work is underway within the genomic monitoring consortium (INSACOG) of 10 national institutes to work on genome sequencing virus samples, ”Dr VK Paul-Niti Aayog told member (Health) at the press conference.

Dr Rakesh Mishra, director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad told The Indian Express that they did not see a dominant variant emerging in correlation with the outbreak.

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“There is no clear indication that the surge is largely due to a particular variant. Any variation or combination that is seen is 10 or 20 percent, but we are creating an environment for the variations to come. At the moment, the root cause of the outbreak could simply be a combination of a few super-spreader events and most places where appropriate Covid behavior is not being tracked, ”Dr Mishra said.

Meanwhile, according to the WHO, last week new cases continued to rise globally, rising 10 percent last week to more than 3 million new reported cases. “The potential for viral mutation increases with the frequency of human and animal infections. Therefore, reducing the transmission of all circulating SARS-CoV-2 viruses and variants using established disease control methods is a critical aspect of the global strategy to reduce the occurrence of mutations with adverse effects. negative implications for public health. Infection prevention and control measures inside and outside healthcare facilities remain of critical importance to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2, including newly reported variants, ”said a WHO statement released on Wednesday.