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COVID-19 Kappa Variant: Everything You Need To Know About The Variant Found In Uttar Pradesh

On 9 July Friday, Uttar Pradesh reported two cases of highly transmissible Kappa variant of COVID-19. According to an official statement by the state government, the variant was detected through the genome sequencing of samples in Lucknow's King George medical college.

A genome sequencing of 109 samples showed 107 confirmed samples of highly infections Delta variant of COVID-19 and two samples of the Kappa variant - which is not a new variant [1].

"Both the variants are not new for the state. The facility of genome sequencing is being increased in the state," UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's said [2]. "There is nothing to worry about. This is a variant of coronavirus, and its treatment is possible," added Additional Chief Secretary (Health) Amit Mohan Prasad.

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Read about COVID-19 Kappa Variant here.


COVID-19 Kappa Variant: What We Know So Far

The first case of COVID-19 Kappa variant was reported in a 66-year-old man from Sant Kabir Nagar, who has now died. The man with the Kappa variant first tested positive for COVID-19 on 27 May and was hospitalised at the BRD Medical College on 12 June and died in the course of treatment on 14 June [2].

Here is what we know so far about the new COVID-19 Kappa strain:

  • The Kappa variant was first found in India was initially termed as the Indian variant, and later changed by WHO after India objected to the B.1.617 variant being termed an Indian variant in media reports with the Union health ministry pointing out that the UN's top health organ has not used the word ‘Indian' for this strain in its document [3].
  • The variant B.1.617, first found in India, is split into sub-lineages, of which the B.1.617.1 variant of concern becomes 'Kappa'. The B.1.617.2 variant of interest is called 'Delta'.
  • The Kappa variant is also known as B.1.167.1.
  • It is a double mutant strain of the virus, and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control documents the first detection to be in December 2020, while WHO documents the month to be October 2020 [4][5].
  • According to WHO data, the Kappa variant is a Variant of interest (VOI).
  • The double mutation is a distant lineage since it consists of two viral types, EE484Q and L452R, like the Delta variant.
  • The mutation is identical to the E484K mutation identified in fast-spreading Brazil or Gamma variant (P.1) and South Africa or Beta variant (B.1.351) [6].
  • Regarding the immune escape ability of the variant, it is believed that the L452R mutation may help the variant escape the body's natural immune response [7].
  • As the Kappa variant is considered a VOI, it may affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape.
  • In a recent study, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has stated that Covaxin was effective for Kappa and Beta and Delta variants of coronavirus [8].
  • Another study by researchers at Oxford University, which was published in the journal Cell, stated that AstraZeneca (Covishield) vaccines were effective against Delta and Kappa variants of COVID-19 [9].
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What Is A Variant Of Interest (VOI)?

A VOI is a variant with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding, reduced neutralisation by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination, reduced efficacy of treatments, chances of a wrong diagnosis, or predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity, says the CDC [10].

A variant of interest might require one or more appropriate public health actions, such as increased sequence surveillance, enhanced laboratory characterisation, widespread vaccination drives etc., stating that a single measure is not enough to contain such variants [11].

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WHO states that VOIs have been identified to cause significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters in numerous countries, increasing prevalence alongside an increasing number of cases with time [12]. According to WHO, the following are the designated Variants of Interest:

  • Eta B.1.525 (Multiple countries, Dec-2020)
  • Iota B.1.526 (the USA, Nov-2020)
  • Kappa B.1.617.1 (India, Oct 2020)
  • Lambda C.37 (Peru, Dec 2020)
  • The Variants of Concern are (VOC):

    • Alpha B.1.1.7 (UK, Sep 2020)
    • Beta B.1.351, B.1.351.2, B.1.351.3 (South Africa, May 2020)
    • Gamma P.1, P.1.1, P.1.2 (Brazil, Nov 2020)
    • Delta B.1.617.2, AY.1, AY.2 (India, Oct 2020)
    • Variant of Concern (VOC):

      A mutation is declared a VOC when a variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease which requires increased hospitalisation or causes deaths, a significant reduction in neutralisation by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.

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      Variants of concern might require one or more public health actions, such as notification to WHO, reporting to CDC, local or regional efforts to control spread, increased testing, or research to determine the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments against the variant.


More Updates To Follow…

According to the Munich-based GISAID (a global science initiative and primary source), which maintains a worldwide database of coronavirus genomes, India has submitted 3,693 Kappa samples, the highest in the world.