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Among many variants of COVID-19 circulating in India, the latest one which is making news headlines is the Eta variant, detected in an individual based in Mangaluru (Karnataka). Reports say that he was confirmed with this variant type on August 5, four months after he had travelled back from Dubai.
According to health authorities, it is not the first case of the Eta variant of COVID-19 in India, or in Karnataka. Earlier in April 2020, two coronavirus infected people were also confirmed for Eta variant by the virology lab at NIMHANS, Bengaluru. Also, in July 2021, a case of Eta variant was confirmed in Mizoram by the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG), after the genome sequencing of 75 samples from the state.
Let's discuss more on the Eta variant of COVID-19.
What Is An Eta Variant Of COVID-19?
According to the CDC, the Eta variant of COVID-19 comes under lineage B.1.525, and was first identified in December 2020 in the United Kingdom and Nigeria.  It has the following spike protein mutations: A67V, 69del, 70del, 144del, E484K, D614G, Q677H and F888L.
The Eta variant is SARS-CoV-2 'Variants of Interest' or VOI. The VOI classification of COVID-19 is known to have specific genetic markers that can increase the binding ability of the COVID-19 spike proteins to the host cells, along with reducing antibody neutralisation, thus causing problems in diagnosis and reducing the efficacy of treatment.
To mention, a neutralising antibody is produced naturally after infections or vaccine-induced immunity. As Eta is a Variant of Interest and may reduce the neutralising-antibody response, chances are, that it can cause an increase in transmission or severity of the disease. 
Eta variant can cause a potential reduction in neutralizing-antibody response related to:
- Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) monoclonal antibody treatments.
- Convalescent and post-vaccination sera.
How Is Eta Similar To Other Variants?
The E484K mutation in COVID-19 spike proteins is responsible for its rapid spreading characteristics. Eta variant carries this E484K mutation, which is also found in Gamma (P.1, P.1.1, P.1.2) and Beta (B.1.351) variants, and only some strains of Lota (B.1.526) and Alpha (B.1.1.7) variants, as mentioned by the CDC. 
Apart from that, it also contains the D614G mutation which is found in Gamma, Lota, Kappa, Alpha, Beta, Delta, two unnamed variants of California (United States) and one unnamed variant of India. This mutation in the spike protein is responsible for reduced shedding of the virus and increased infectivity. 
Also, Eta has 69del, 70del and 144del mutations similar to the Alpha variant.
How Is Eta Different From Other Variants?
It contains mutations like A67V, Q677H and F888L which are not found in any other variants of COVID-19. However, a STARPEARLS study updated on 17 July 2021 says that the Lota variant also harbours the same key spike mutations at Eta, which was first detected in the United States (New York). 
Is Eta Variant Dangerous?
Eta contains some spike protein mutations similar to Alpha, Beta, Delta and Gamma that come under 'Variant of Concern' and are characterised by increased transmissibility and severity based on hospitalisation and fatality, but minimal impact on neutralisation of antibodies.
It also contains certain new mutation types whose characteristics are still under investigation.  Therefore, it is yet not clear whether the Eta variant is concerning and deadly, compared to other types.
When more information will become available for the Eta variant of COVID-19, we will update the article. Wear a mask, maintain hand hygiene and keep social distancing, even if you are vaccinated.
The Eta variant of COVID-19 detected in Karnataka (India) is the same as B.1.525 lineage which was first detected in December 2020 in the United Kingdom and Nigeria. The variant comes under "Variant of Interest" according to the CDC and WHO.
Yes, mutation and evolution are the characteristics of every microorganism on this planet, and is the same for COVID-19 which is an infection caused by a virus. The COVID-19 variants are the result of changes in its genetic sequence over time.
To date, there have been no reports of Eta variant causing distinctive symptoms apart from the normal ones that usually include fever, dry cough and tiredness. Also, vaccination may help prevent the occurrence of symptoms or lower its intensity.