HYDERABAD: As Telangana and Andhra Pradesh witness a surge in Covid-19 cases, it has come to light that the two Telugu states are harbouring variants of concern (VOC) of the Coronavirus. While the South African variant, B.1.351 has been reported from Telangana, the ‘double mutant’ variant, B.1.617 has been reported from AP. Genome sequencing of two Covid-19 positive samples each from the Telugu states revealed presence of the VOCs.
S Africa variant in Hyd, ‘double mutant’ in AP
In Telangana, samples of both the variants were collected from Hyderabad. In Andhra Pradesh, one sample each was collected from Tirupati and Vijayawada respectively.The genome sequencing was conducted by Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), which is part of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) and the data has been submitted with GISAID, a global science initiative that provides open-access genomic sequencing data of Coronavirus.
Till now, 16 sequenced samples confirming South African variant have been submitted from India with the GISAID -- from West Bengal- 8, Maharashtra- 3, Telangana- 2, Kerala- 2 and Karnataka- 1. Also, 162 sequenced samples have been submitted of the ‘double mutant’ virus, of which the majority are from Maharashtra-120 and the remaining are from West Bengal, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
While the presence of South African variant and the ‘double mutant’ variant in India was announced last month by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, presence of these VOCs in the Telugu States was unknown. The MoHFW had pointed out that the mutations “confer immune escape and increased infectivity” to the Coronavirus.
It was recently reported in these columns that a study conducted by a private diagnostics lab in Hyderabad reported presence of another VOC in the city, the United Kindom (UK) variant of B.1.1.7.Speaking to Express, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Director Dr Rakesh Mishra stressed on the need for Covid-19 appropriate behaviour by the public. He also pointed out the need for increasing the testing numbers by the government for proper implementation of the ‘test-track-treat’ method.Dr Mishra added that the CCMB, along with other labs under INSACOG, would start large scale genomic sequencing within a couple of days.