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COVID-19: What Is Triple Mutation? What Does It Mean For India? Does It Affect Vaccination?

Since its advent in December 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic has caused 3,058,567 deaths, affecting over 143,588,175 people globally. Covid-19 can affect anyone, causing symptoms ranging from mild to very severe. Some people may be more likely to have severe illness than others because they have characteristics or medical conditions that increase their risk.

Recent reports show that India has nearly three lakh cases and over 2,000 deaths in 24 hours, the biggest jump since the pandemic erupted. Amidst this, a new lineage of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, called B.1.618, has been identified in India, predominantly circulating in West Bengal.

Read more about the COVID-19 Triple Mutant Variant here.


What Is The Triple Mutation?

After the double mutation, it is now the triple mutation; that is, three different Covid strains combining to form a new variant has been detected in parts of the country [1]. Maharashtra, Delhi, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal are believed to have cases caused by the triple mutant.

On Wednesday, Vinod Scaria, a scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research's Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) in New Delhi, tweeted a thread detailing the discovery of a new mutant coronavirus with a distinct set of genetic and immune escape variants. Initial sequences of variant B.1.618 were found in West Bengal [2].

The earliest sequence of this lineage was isolated on 10 October last year from a patient in West Bengal. While the lineage is mainly found in India, variants have also been found in the US, Switzerland, Finland and Singapore.


What Does This New Triple Variant Mean?

The double mutant in India carried two mutations, E484Q and L452R, in the crucial spike protein part of the pathogen. According to the expert, the new strain is characterised by the deletion of two amino acids (H146del and Y145del) and possessing E484K and D614G variants in spike protein, which may contribute to increased infectivity capabilities. And scientists believe that the new surges globally are driven by new variants.

COVID-19: Is The Second Wave Affecting Kids More? Signs And Symptoms To Know

The new variant is more transmissible. It is making lots of people sick very quickly, said one of the experts researching the virus. They said, "There are many unknowns for this lineage at this moment, including its capability to cause reinfections as well as vaccine breakthrough infections. Additional experimental data is also required to assess the efficacy of vaccines against this variant" [3].


Is The New Triple Variant More Infectious?

Experts believe mutations are driving the new infection spikes across the world. And to understand this well, more studies are required. And for now, only ten labs across India are involved in virus genome studies.

Will The New Triple Variant Affect Vaccination?

As of now, scientists are not aware whether the new variant has the capability to cause reinfections as well as vaccine breakthrough infections and stated that additional experimental data is required.

Two of the three variants in the triple mutation have been seen to have immune escape responses; that is, they are more resistant to antibodies. Scientists believe the new variant has some ability to escape the body's naturally acquired immunity COVID.

The researchers also added, "We have to keep tweaking vaccines. For that, we need to understand the disease. But we need sequencing on war footing" [4].

Why Is The COVID-19 Virus Mutating?

As studies point out, the more a virus spreads, the more it replicates and the more it mutates.


COVID Symptoms: 1st wave VS 2nd Wave

Amid the massive surge in COVID cases in the country, there's a lot of concern over the symptoms of COVID-19 and its severity in the second wave of the pandemic. According to experts, the difference in the severity of the symptoms saying in the 2nd wave is much less than last year. Here are some essential points to consider [5]:

  • The symptoms are less severe in the second wave.
  • More cases of breathlessness were reported in the second wave, while in the last wave, symptoms like dry cough, joint pain, headaches were more.
  • Only a marginally high proportion of COVID-19 patients are younger, and the average of patients in the first wave was 50 years and, in this wave, it is 49 years - meaning that the older population continues to be more vulnerable.
  • There is no difference in the per cent of death between the first wave and second wave.

Is It Safe To Get Vaccinated When You Have COVID-19 Symptoms?

As the vaccination drives are in full swing, with people from the age of 18 to get inoculated from 1 May, many have questioned if it is safe to get vaccinated while they are having COVID-19 symptoms or will it affect the efficacy of the vaccine. According to experts, here is what one must do/not do when it comes to vaccination if they have COVID-19 symptoms [6].

  • One must postpone their vaccination plans if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • If the symptoms are suggestive of being COVID, then one can postpone the second dose for a couple of weeks and see how things are evolving.
  • Even if the symptoms are mild, vaccination must be postponed.
  • It can be highly adverse if you take a vaccination in the presence of an ongoing infection.
  • As studies point out, it is better if you delay the vaccine in case of COVID symptoms because the immune response is better if the vaccine is delayed till up to 12 weeks [7].

What Are The Critical COVID Signs And Symptoms That Demand Hospitalisation?

The symptoms of COVID-19 can quickly progress from mild to worse. The first week of infection is crucial since this is the time when the viral load peaks. Staying vigilant and being aware of symptoms should be a priority. Here are some signs that one needs to be shifted to the hospital [8]:

  • Breathlessness and chest pain can be signs of a worsening infection.
  • A dip in oxygen levels.
  • Delirium, or experiencing confusion of any sort.
  • Chest pain.
  • Blue lips (oxygen dip).

Apart from the above-listed symptoms, worsening of any existing symptom or appearance of new ones (such as fever, diarrhoea, fatigue, dip in vitals) require you to call the emergency services [9].

In addition to the above-mentioned symptoms, there have been reports that COVID patients are developing urinary tract infections (UTI) during this second wave [10].


On A Final Note…

For now, the triple mutation has been classified in India as a "variant of interest" rather than a "variant of concern".

Stay Safe. Stay Home.