New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Amid the spurt in fresh COVID-19 cases in the country, the Union Health Ministry on Tuesday informed that two new variants of the deadly virus have been detected in the country. The N440K and E484Q variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been detected in Maharashtra, Kerala, and Telangana. Also, three other mutated strains -- one each from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil are already present in the country.

However, the health ministry said that there is no reason to believe presently, on the basis of scientific information, that the two variants are responsible for the upsurge of the outbreak in some districts of Maharashtra and Kerala. There has been a rise in the number of daily infections in five states: Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, and Madhya Pradesh in the past few days. Of these, Maharashtra and Kerala are the most worrying, accounting for about 75 per cent of the total active COVID-19 cases in the country.

As two new variants are detected in the country, here are all questions regarding mutated variants answered:

What is the name of two variants detected in India?

The two variants found in India have been named 'N440K and E484Q' variants of SARS-CoV-2.

Are the new variant only found in India?

According to ICMR chief, Dr Balram Bhargava, as quoted by News18, 'the two variants have been earlier detected in some countries too and are not specific to India. Bhargava also said that these two variants were earlier found in some states in India.

Which states have reported cases of these new variants?

Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana have so far reported cases of N440K and E484Q variants of COVID-19.

How many new strains of coronavirus have been detected in India so far?

5 covid-19 variants have been found in India so far. They include the N440K variant, the E484K variant, and variants from UK, South Africa, Brazil.

How many people in India have been found to be infected with the new strains of the virus?

The Union Health Ministry had on Tuesday informed that a total of 194 cases of UK, Brazilian and South African variants have been found in the country so far. The E484Q strain was earlier detected in four sequences in Maharashtra as early as March and July last year. The N440K mutation has been reported on 13 different occasions between May and September 2020 in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Assam.

Do we know anything about the N440K and E484K variant?

The term E484K is like map coordinates. the number 484 depicts the exact location of the strain and the letter E depicts the original amino acid, while the letter K depicts the amino acid it has mutated to.

Noting that close monitoring of these new variants is being done by the health authorities, NITI Aayog Member DR VK Paul said, "When we are doing sequencing, we are looking for any abnormal shift in the virus character. We have been watching mutants. Today, based on the information and as analyzed and understood by a very eminent scientific advisory group of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), we would like to underline the fact that we do not see attribution of mutant strains to the upsurge of the infection being seen in some districts".

"But this is a work in progress. We will continue to watch the situation with full responsibility, Paul said. The SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) was established in December end for laboratory and epidemiological surveillance of circulating strains of SARS-CoV-2 in the country," he added.

What do we know about the UK variant of coronavirus?

The UK or Kent variant (B.1.1.7) of the virus was found to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible and may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variants. However, no concrete evidence of this has been found yet. It has already been reported by Denmark, Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Sweden, France, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Japan, Lebanon and Singapore.

What do we know about the South African variant of Covid-19?

The South African variant (501Y.V2 or B.1.351) of coronavirus was different from the Covid-19 (SARS-Cov- 2) virus in several ways including its spike protein which enables the virus entry into a body. Much like the new UK variant, the South African strain is said to have high transmissibility, meaning it spreads quickly.

What do we know about the Brazilian variant of the coronavirus?

The Brazil variant (P.1) emerged in July and has this E484K mutation too. Like the UK and South African variants, the Brazil variant could be much more contagious. It is also reported that the Brazilian variant may have the ability to evade antibodies.

What does mutation mean?

A mutation means a change in a nucleic acid base or amino acid molecule, and a virus containing this change is termed a mutant. Mutations eventually accumulate to generate variants that differ from the original virus more and more, and so, a variant can have limited or even cumulative mutations. The longer a virus stays in the population and spreads, the more the mutations and hence more variants.

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan