Published on May 08, 2021

AHMEDABAD: The deadly wave of disease and death unleashed for the past one month in Gujarat is triggered mainly by B.1.617, the dreaded variant of Covid-19 widely identified as the double mutation unique to several Indian states, said top state government sources.

“About 40% of the new cases and 55% of the deaths have the variant present. It shows both virulence and the higher lethal nature of the variant. While the overall viral sequencing profile has other variants too, the dominant variant and strain would have impact on treatment protocol and vaccination strategy,” said a senior official close to the development.

Dr Mukesh Maheshwari, a city-based pathologist, said that several government authorities at central and state levels have attributed the current wave to this variant. “A study by NIV in Pune had found this variant in 61% of the samples from Maharashtra. States like Karnataka also have sizeable number of patients with this variant based on data available in public domain,” he said.

Why is it called double mutation? Dr Urvesh Shah, professor of pathology at GCS Hospital, said that the B.1.617 variant has over 17 mutations including 6 in spike gene. “But two of them – L452R and E484Q – are of significance to us. The first one was found in two strains of the US, whereas the second was found in strains from Brazil and South Africa. Here both the mutations are present together,” said Dr Shah.

He said that both the mutations are attributed with higher transmissibility and immune escapism – the phenomenon where the existing antibodies (gained by either infection or vaccination) cannot fight the viral spread.

“Not all variations and mutations are bad for us – as we have seen in the past one year, some have even reduced infectivity and mortality,” said Dr Maheshwari. “But we need much more data and analysis to periodically assess the virus’ profile. We would surely see more variants as the pandemic progresses.”

Studies have also highlighted the presence of variants including B.1.36, B.1.1.306 and B.1.1.216 among others.

Ahmedabad-based physicians said that the tell-tale signs of the greater mutation of the existing virus included change in dominant symptoms (diarrhea/ vomiting replaced sore throat), change in spread (entire families getting infected) and change in progression (faster spread in bodies, higher lung involvement)

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