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COVID-19 Triple-Mutant Bengal Strain: Everything You Need To Know About The New Mutant Strain

As the pandemic situation continues to surge in the country, with India reporting the world's highest one-day tally today, the death rate has risen by 2,104 in the same time period; India's highest daily toll [1].

India has reported 314,835 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the country's total confirmed cases close to 16 million. Experts say that India is suffocating in the vicious second wave. An acute oxygen shortage is raising more fears, resulting in Delhi's highest court publicly criticising the central government for its handling of the oxygen crisis.

With the numbers rising every minute comes another COVID-19 update, the triple-mutant 'Bengal Strain.' The Indian-origin double mutant strain has been held responsible for the rapidly climbing caseload. Among this comes the third mutation to contend with.

So, what exactly is the triple-mutant Bengal strain?

What Is The Triple-Mutant Bengal Strain?

Dubbed as the 'Bengal strain', the mutated strain might be more infective. It may be capable of escaping a person's immune surveillance, even if that person was earlier exposed to a virus without this mutation, and even if vaccinated. And this is giving rise to concern amongst experts.

The Indian-origin double mutant strain of the coronavirus, B.1.167 that could be behind the rapid climb of the second COVID-19 wave was first detected way back on 5 October last year through genome sequencing of a virus sample [2].

The third mutation is said to have been evolved from the double mutation, where three different Covid strains have combined to form a new variant [3]. The mutated strain is called the Bengal strain. It was first reported in the state, followed by Maharashtra, Delhi, and Chhattisgarh [4].

How Did The COVID-19 Virus Mutate In West Bengal?

Experts stated, "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" [5].

There is no evidence as to why the mutation occurred in West Bengal, and there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that those who are presently infected in West Bengal have been hit by this triple-mutant strain.

Is The Triple-Mutant Bengal Strain Dangerous?

According to current understandings, the mutated strain more infective than the previously reported strains. Experts add that the proportion of B.1.618 has been growing significantly in recent months in West Bengal. Along with B.1.617 (second mutation), it forms a major lineage in the state.

India's health ministry has only acknowledged the presence of the 'double mutant'. However, it has only been identified as a 'variant of interest' and not a 'variant of concern'. The mutated strains of the virus can also be detected through genome sequencing of samples collected from different states (Maharashtra, Delhi, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh).

As per the current evidence, none of the major virus variants is associated with increased severity. However, increased transmissibility is associated with the UK variant (lineage B1.1.7). In contrast, the Brazilian and South African variants exhibit an ability to escape vaccine-induced immunity.

More Updates To Follow...

There has been no scientific research to either corroborate or dismiss the fears regarding the mutated Bengal strain.

Story first published: Thursday, April 22, 2021, 17:15 [IST]