India is presently in the midst of an ever-escalating second series of COVID-19 infections, with numerous medical experts even dubbing it as a “formidable tsunami rather than just a mighty wave”. Even as the nationwide COVID-19 vaccination drive gains momentum with the inoculations being made available for all adults who are 18 years and older with or without comorbidities, the coronavirus seems to be presenting itself in different avatars in the subcontinent. While it is true that viruses tend to modify their fundamental constitution, by means of their core genetic material RNA undergoing structural and sequence mutations, the alarming factor is that the new strains arising in India are more infectious than the initial pathogens encountered last year in 2020. Besides India, even countries such as the U.K., Brazil and South Africa have reported novel mutant strains of coronavirus in local populations which have lead to the cascading of positive cases in those regions.
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The rampant spread of a disease as dangerous as COVID-19 in a densely populated country such as India undeniably prompts a sense of fear, panic, worry among the general public. Nevertheless, it is important to not believe in any rumours, myths and misapprehensions that tend to be circulated widely among society in such uncertain times, but to stay informed of ongoing events and understand the proven scientific details regarding the mutant strains of coronavirus in India. Not to mention, that every single person residing in any part of India must follow COVID-appropriate behaviour now more than ever. This includes wearing face masks, sanitizing hands often and maintaining social distancing when outside, preferably staying home as much as possible and taking care of the family’s health.
Quick Facts On The 3 COVID-19 Variants In India:
The surge in COVID-19 positive cases across India in 2021, in the months of April and May, particularly in the western state of Maharashtra and also in Kerala, Karnataka, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan has certainly caused much anxiety and nervousness among the common people. The central research organizations in India, such as Indian Council For Medical Research (ICMR), Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) as well as medical professionals and government agencies have hence undertaken numerous efforts to sequence the genetic makeup of coronavirus strains in nasal and throat swab samples isolated from people affected in the second wave and study their pathology.
Also Read: Vaccines Work Against All Mutant Strains. Get Inoculated To Stay Safe
First and foremost, one must understand that SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus strain which instigates COVID-19, invades the human body utilising specialised components known as spike proteins present on its surface. These spike proteins often alter their sequence of compounds as well as their structural assembly to attack, enter and then survive and proliferate in the host i.e. human beings. The three COVID-19 variants identified in India have altered structures of spike proteins which make them more infectious and even provide them with the ability to transmit the viral disease at a faster pace.
- First detected in India in October 2020.
- Has about 13 – 17 mutations in the spike protein.
- Variant Of Concern (VOC), spreads rapidly among people in close contact, but no increased mortality rate detected.
- Initially observed in India in April 2021.
- Research is ongoing as to how many mutations are present in the spike protein, but few have been spotted overlapping with that of B.1.617.
- Variant Of Concern (VOC), very high rate of transmissibility but not linked to severe symptoms of fatal instances.
- Originally detected in India in April 2021.
- Found to be 15 times more virulent than previous SARS-CoV-2 strains which emerged last year in 2020.
- Associated with high viral load in infected persons, but not with a high fatality rate.