According to a report by The IE, the new fast spreader variant (also known as 501.V2) has emerged independently in South Africa and has N501Y mutation, similar to the mutation in the UK variants. While the spike N501Y variant in India has not yet been found, there are some P681H mutated strains in the country that first emerged in July. So far, 14 per cent of those infected with SARS-CoV-2 in India do have this mutated genome and the cases are mainly in Maharashtra and some in West Bengal. The concern is that if this virus mutates one more time, India will sail in the same boat as the UK.
To be sure, whenever a microorganism will replicate, there is a possibility of mutations. Usually, these mutations are errors that occur during the replication process. While many are able to correct these errors in replications, those like viruses having RNA as genetic material are not able to correct these and thus, result in mutations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that the virus genomic sequence of at least one out of every 300 confirmed cases should be analysed. This is 0.333 per cent only. In the UK, 135,572 or 6.2 per cent viral variants have been sequenced from a total of 2.19 million confirmed cases. cases, while South Africa and the US have sequenced viral genome of 0.3 per cent of confirmed cases. Now coming to India, only 4,976 viral genomes have been sequenced which is just 0.05 per cent from positive viral cases that have crossed 10 million. If the sequencing continues at this rate only, there is a possibility that the country will remain oblivious to the new variant emergence and by the time these genomes are identified, it will be too late, the report highlighted. Therefore, it becomes imperative to provide adequate coverage and density when it comes to surveillance.
Moreover, with many people coming to India from the UK previously also gives another reason to worry as experts have hypothesised the presence of the UK variant in India. Meanwhile, as the health experts are strengthening the tracing and genetic sequencing, people can do the basics they have been doing for the whole year now. Keeping everything sanitized and wearing masks (without fail) so transmission can be prevented.