New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Amid the concerns over the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19 or the Delta Variant, which is said to be the primary reason behind the outbreak of the second wave of COVID-19 in India, the National Institute of Virology in Pune has identified a new variant of coronavirus, namely -- B.1.1.28.2 -- through genome sequencing of samples from the international flyers from Brazil and the UK to India.

According to a report by the Times of India, the NIV Pune has said that the new variant is can cause more severe symptoms of the deadly virus. The preprint findings of the study, published online by bioRxiv, show that the new variant can cause increased severity of the disease leading to the more critical condition of the patient.

The findings of the study also noted some symptoms of the new variant in the patient. According to the study, the B.1.1.28.2 variant of COVID-19 induced body weight loss, viral replication in the respiratory tract, lung lesions and caused severe lung pathology in an infected Syrian hamster model. The findings of the pathogenicity evaluation also pointed towards the screening of COVID-19 vaccines used in India.

However, the report further quoted an uncorrected manuscript of a separate study by the NIV, Pune, and stated that the two-dose Covaxin COVID-19 vaccine significantly boosted antibody against the new strain in the body and neutralises efficacy against the variant. The study pointed towards the necessity of genomic surveillance and characterisation of SARS-CoV-2 variants to understand their pathogenicity and immune escape potential.

Genome Sequencing labs in the country are studying the COVID-19 mutations which have significant potential of severely affecting COVID-19 transmission. There are 10 labs under INSACOG which have sequenced 30,000 samples. The government has also planned to add 18 more genome sequencing labs to the INSACOG.

THis comes a week after the WHO said that only one strain of the COVID-19 variant (B.1.617), which was first found in India last year, is now considered as the 'variant of concern' (VOC), while the two other sub-lineages of the COVID variant have been downgraded.

"It has become evident that greater public health risks are currently associated with B.1.617.2, while lower rates of transmission of other lineages have been observed," the World Health Organization said.

"The B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant remains a VOC, along with three other variants of the virus that are seen as more dangerous than the original version because they are more transmissible, deadly or have the potential to get past some vaccine protections", the WHO added.

The B.1.617 variant of COVID-19, which has been blamed for the exponential growth of the coronavirus cases in India, has been dubbed as the triple mutant variant as it is split into three sub-lineages -- B.1.617.1 B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3.

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan