BENGALURU: The genomic sequencing of Covid samples in Karnataka has found two positive patients in Bengaluru infected with the AY.4.2 variant of SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is feared to be causing the surge in the UK, Germany and Russia.
With this, the Karnataka government is likely to reimpose a few restrictions.
The two samples tested positive for the mutated sublineages of the virus in July. Health Minister Dr K Sudhakar on Monday cautioned and reminded people that the pandemic is not over yet.
“The two cases have been detected with this sub-lineage and we sent the samples for genomic sequencing for reconfirmation. After discussing with experts, I will brief the Chief Minister and take a decision on new guidelines,” he said.
“If reconfirmed, we will hold discussions with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The third wave has started in the UK and Russia because of new Covid variants. I will meet the Covid Technical Advisory Committee chairman and discuss precautionary measures to be taken,” he added.
Education Minister BC Nagesh, however, said that seven people in the state have been infected with the new variant, though Dr Sudhakar confirmed it as only two.
BBMP Health Commissioner Thrilok Chandra said, “Both the patients, who have been traced, were found to be asymptomatic.”
Primary, secondary contacts test -ve
“They have undergone home isolation and have recovered. One of them is from Chandapura, while the other from K Narayanapura,” Thrilok Chandra said.
He added that primary and secondary contacts of the two patients too were traced and they were negative. He assured people that the new variants are not a cause for concern, while Sudhakar said,
“Even if the third wave comes, we are prepared.” Sudhakar said two doses usually provide protection against the variants.
While there is confusion over the classification of the variant, and the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium is meeting soon to discuss it, the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data has said seven samples of AY.4.2 were found in AP, two in Karnataka, two in Telangana, four in Kerala and one each in Jammu & Kashmir and Maharashtra.
Experts said people need to be vigilant.
“We should not create panic, but step up vigilance and follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.,” said Dr CN Manjunath, Director, Jayadeva Hospital, and TAC member.
On October 21, the UK Health Security Agency designated AY.4.2, a mutation of the B.1.617.2 delta strain, as a variant under investigation.
The delta variant was first found in India in October 2020 and its AY lineage is detected in about 70% of all samples sequenced.
Dr Vishal Rao, part of the genomic sequencing committee, aid, “Karnataka’s monitoring capabilities are good. It is yet to be determined whether AY.4.2 is more virulent and dangerous than the original one.”
He explained that the spike protein mutations AY.4.2 exhibits have been found in other variants too, but none of those was a variant of concern.
Strain under investigation
Does AY.4.2 cause more severe illness?
There is no clear indication from the UK that AY.4.2 leads to more severe illness, according to initial analyses
Origin not known yet
First spotted in July this year in the UK, more than 15,000 cases have been reported in that country.
Last week, the UK termed it a “variant under investigation”.
Reports have indicated a “growth rate of 17% for AY.4.2 compared to other circulating variants” and a “secondary attack rate” of 12.4% for household contacts as against 11.1% for Delta.
The AY.4.2 is distinguished by two key spike mutations - A222V which is seen across most Delta lineages but also Y145H.
It is Y145H which is closely being assessed for any additional impact on the characteristics of the variant.
They are all sub-lineages of delta.
There are now 75 AY lineages identified, each with different additional defining mutations in their genome. Of these – AY.4 – has been steadily growing in proportion in the UK.