As countries across the world experience a spurt in Covid cases, a group of scientists of the INSACOG network monitoring genomic variations in SARS-CoV-2 contended that a new mutated form of the Covid-causing coronavirus (AY.4.2) is present in India ‘in very low numbers’.
This mutation that has caused an exponential rise in cases in Europe, Israel, and Russia in the last week is deemed to be more contagious than the Delta virus.
Scientists say the AY.4.2-related findings still carry a high level of uncertainty, and it is still early to say that this lineage carries a higher risk of severe illness or death. On October 21, the US Centers for Diseases Control said it has less than 10 reported cases of AY.4.2 in its database so far, but the UK health authorities have found 15,120 cases of AY.4.2 since it was first detected in July.
Dr. Anurag Agrawal, director at CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) while deliberating on the issue told TOI that AY.4.2 is present in India based on the revised definition, but at very low numbers, less than 0.1%.
Dr. Agrawal said further details and an exact number of AY.4.2 in India would be available soon. AY.4.2 is a descendant of the Delta variant, which has so far been considered the most dangerous form of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
IGIB is one of the main laboratories involved in the INSACOG genomic surveillance exercise.
AY.4.2, dubbed “Delta Plus” and now named VUI-21OCT-01 by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), has been under closer scrutiny in recent days after evidence indicated that it spread more quickly than the dominant Delta variant. While the investigation is on, so far it does not appear the new VUI causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.
According to official statistics, the original Delta variant, first identified in India and later classed as Variant of Concern (VOC) in the UK continues to remain overwhelmingly dominant in the UK, making up approximately 99.8 percent of all cases.