New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Union Health Minister Dr Mansukh Mandaviya on Tuesday said that a panel of government experts, which includes scientists from the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), is looking into the AY.4.2 variant of coronavirus, a new mutation of the Delta variant of COVID-19 that was detected in the United Kingdom (UK) a few days ago.

"A team is investigating the new COVID19 variant AY.4.2... ICMR and NCDC teams study and analyse the different variants," Mandaviya was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

The Delta sub-lineage AY.4.2 has been blamed by the UK authorities for the recent surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has described it as a "Variant Under Investigation (VUI)" and suggested that its growth rate might also be more than the Delta variant.

However, it has suggested that "more evidence is needed to know whether this is due to changes in the virus' behaviour or to epidemiological conditions".

What is the AY.4.2 variant?

The AY.4.2 variant is a sub-lineage or mutation of the Delta variant, which is also known as B.1.617.2, which was the reason behind the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. It has two mutations -- A222V and Y145H -- in its spike protein.

Which countries have reported the AY.4.2 variant so far?

The AY.4.2 variant was first reported in the UK. Besides the UK, it has also been detected in the United States (US), Germany, Denmark, Russia, Israel and India.

In India, only 17 cases of the AY.4.2 variant have been found from more than 19,000 samples collected from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir and Telangana.

Experts in India have urged people not to panic about the AY.4.2 variant as it is "very uncommon" currently and found in very low numbers.

Is AY.4.2 variant a cause of concern?

The AY.4.2 variant has been found in increased frequency in the UK, but the experts have said that more research needs to be conducted to find more about it. They have also said that the AY.4.2 does not "cause more severe diseases" and would not render vaccines that are currently being used against other variants.

"The new delta variant seems to be highly transmissible but not fatal, as such. It can be more transmissible (or infectious) considering that the virus does that for its own survival as it needs more hosts (body of human being). However, it is difficult to say that it will be more virulent," ICMR's Dr Samiran Panda said while speaking to News18.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma