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COVID-19: Types Of Coronavirus Variants In India

While six types of coronaviruses have been identified, there are as many as 11 types of SARS-CoV-2 variants, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused 3,227,002 deaths affecting over 154,184,941 people globally. Covid-19 can affect anyone, causing symptoms ranging from mild to very severe. In India, the novel coronavirus cases account for 20,275,543, with 222,383 deaths reported.

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.

Types Of Coronavirus Variants In India

According to the findings of scientists from the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics under the department of biotechnology, the Union government has stated that from O or ancestral type of virus that originated from Wuhan, China, there are ten more types that have evolved. Still, a type named A2a started to overtake other COVID-19 variants [1]. However, among all the mutant COVID-19 variants in India, the double mutated virus, B.1.617, is becoming the most prevalent [2].

The COVID variants are (informally) associated with the name of the country where they were first discovered, such as the UK (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351) and the Brazil (P1) variant.

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Experts Release First Images Of Covid-19 Variant

Canadian researchers have published the first structural images of a mutation in the B.1.1.7 variant of the Covid-19 virus that may explain why it has proved far more infectious than the previous strain, causing a rapid rise in cases around the world.

[image source: University of British Columbia]

The B.1.1.7 variant, first reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in mid-December last year, has an unusually large number of mutations.

The COVID-19 variants reported in India are:

  • the UK variant, the South Africa variant,
  • the Brazil variant and
  • the double-mutant variant - which combines mutations from two separate virus variants [3].

More On Indian COVID-19 Variants...

  • The coronavirus variants can be classified into many types such as O, A2, A2a, A2, B, B1, 19A, 19B, 20A, 20B, 20C, D614G etc [4].
  • The original strain of the COVID-19 causing virus was named O type or ancestral type. From this, strain at least ten different strains had originated.
  • The ten types have evolved from the ancestral type 'O' over four months.
  • Out of these ten new strains, A2a is the strongest and dominant type of SARS-CoV2 [5].
  • The D614G lineages have become dominant across India.
  • In India's northern and eastern regions, the 20A lineage/variant is dominant. In southern and western India, the 20B lineage is dominant.
  • The double mutant, classified as B.1.617 lineage, was found in 15-20 per cent samples in Maharashtra.
  • The B.1.617 variant contains mutations from two separate virus variants: E484Q and L452R.
  • Some variants are specific to regions of India, including one called B.1.36, which has been reported in a large fraction in Bangalore [6].
  • The UK variant currently dominates new cases in Punjab.
  • By the end of March 2020, the A2a type had nearly replaced all other types and became the dominant type of SARS-CoV-2.

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Does This Mean Certain COVID-19 Variants Are More Likely To Cause Death?

Scientists are still looking into this, but as far as current data is concerned, no conclusive data have been found as credible evidence to assert that different lineages are associated with different rates of mortality. All the lineages are roughly similar in their ability to cause death upon infecting a host [7].

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On A Final Note...

The stain A2a is currently the most prevalent in the world as well as in India. A previous study had claimed that if a vaccine is to be made, it should be made against this strain. Experts stated that as per the current evidence, new variants are observed from few states. However, more studies are required to gather an understanding of its epidemiology.