If you have not heard of the B.1.617 variant of the COVID-19 mutation, chances are you will in the near future. Recently the WHO changed the India’s “double mutant” B.1.617 variant from “variant of interest” to “variant of concern”. What is this variant? Are the vaccines effective against this new mutant? Read on to find out.
As India is left reeling under the daily new COVID-19 fresh cases, a new alarming development came when the global public health and welfare body WHO changed the India’s “double mutant” B.1.617 variant from “variant of interest” to “variant of concern”. This means that the new mutated variant of the virus is more transmittable than other variants.
Earlier this week, while launching the “Together for India” initiative, the World Health Organization reveled its concern over the new “double mutant” variant of the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that has caused COVID-19 and has been the reason for several hundred thousand people being infected and thousands of them dying.
It should be noted that the “double mutant” is labelled because of its mutation over mutations, which is E484Q and L452R. The WHO elevated the classification of the new variant from VOI (variant of interest) to VOC (variant of concern) due to several evidences which fulfill one or more of the following parameters:
1) Variant is easily transmitted.
2) Variant has increased illness severity.
3) Neutralization by antibodies has been reduced.
4) Drugs and treatment’s efficacy is reduced.
5) Vaccine’s efficacy on the variant is reduced.
B.1.617’s connection with the increase of COVID-19 cases in India
Earlier last week the health ministry announced that the B.1.617 variant aka the “double mutant” may be the cause of sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in some states. This was a drastic change of opinion as earlier the Centre said that the double mutant strain was not in enough number of samples to say that it indeed is the cause of the second wave of the pandemic.
The new variant is now the 4th variant of concern. Earlier, the UN had given the same classification to the UK variant of the virus called B.1.1.7 that was first found in Southeast England, the South African variant of the virus known as the B.1.3.5 and the Brazilian variant of the virus called the P.1.
Vaccine’s Efficacy against the Indian variant
Although the new variant is proving to be highly transmittable, the WHO gave Indians a silver lining in its announcement and said that vaccines and drugs will “continue to be effective” against the Indian variant of the virus.
According to NDTV, Dr. Roderico Ofrin, a WHO Representative to India, said-
“Based on what WHO knows so far as per discussions with experts globally, vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics continue to be effective against B.1.617 variant (of COVID-19), which WHO has classified as a variant of concern.”
Another molecular study conducted by Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia with UK also reaffirmed the same notion. The study stated that the new variant although the new variant can evade the antibodies that are produced after vaccination, the two mutations in the double mutant variant does not show any impact on the loss of sensitivity.
One of the authors of the paper, Dr. Anurag Agarwal said how his team found that there was a reduction in the ability of the antibodies to neutralize the variant, but they weren’t completely ineffective. In a nutshell it means that the new vaccine can in fact curb the variant.
This in a nutshell means that although vaccinated individuals may report getting infected by the new mutant, the vaccines will protect them against severe implications.