Spread of mutant Covid variant ‘N440k’ more prevalent in southern India: Study

In what can only be described as an exhaustive analysis, the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) has released a study of Covid-19 variants. Researchers and scientists analysed more than 5,000 coronavirus variants detected in India and their evolution over the course of the pandemic for the purpose of this study.

The CSIR-CCMB study asserts that though mutated variants of Covid-19 have set alarm bells ringing in other countries, their prevalence in India has been low so far. These include the variants with immune-escape E484K mutation and the N501Y mutation with a higher-transmission rate.

”However, their apparent low prevalence might be simply because not enough sequencing has been done. More coronavirus genomes need to be sequenced across the country to accurately identify the emergence of these and other new variants,” CSIR-CCMB Director Dr Rakesh Mishra said.

The study also found that a few variants of Covid-19 are spreading more in certain states in India, mostly in the southern region.

A corresponding author of the study, Dr Mishra added, “We now have emerging evidence that N440K is spreading a lot more in southern states. Closer surveillance is needed to understand its spread properly.”

“Accurate and timely detection of new variants that may show greater infectivity or worse clinical symptoms, including immune escape, will be extremely important to preempt disastrous consequences,” Dr Rakesh Mishra told India Today.

In this paper, researchers have explained how different Covid-19 variants gained prevalence in India during the last year.

According to Hyderabad-based CSIR-CCMB, the recently-discovered variants of Covid-19 have fuelled concerns owing to the mutations in the spike protein of the virus.

Dr Divya Tej Sowpati, a co-corresponding author of this study said, “The spike protein is required for binding to the receptors on human cells. Mutations in this protein can help the virus in some cases. It can increase viral transmission rates by enhancing its affinity to human receptors. Some of these coronavirus variants can also be immune-escape, and cause re-infection.”



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