No evidence to say N440K Covid variant is 15 times more virulent, says AP Govt

G Naga Sridhar Hyderabad | Updated on July 02, 2021

Virus strain found only in very few cases

Refuting claims that the Covid-19 virus variant that was found in Andhra Pradesh, N440K, is very virulent in nature, the Department of Health, Government of Andhra Pradesh, has said that there is no scientific evidence to establish that the virus variant was more infectious than other variants. . “The research data so so far doesn’t establish that N440K is a variant of interest and is very virulent,'' the department said in a release. There were reports that the virus strain was “15 times more virulent than a normal virus and could result in speedy and dangerous health hazards.''

N440K strain of coronavirus (B.1.36) was detected in June-July 2020 from the samples of AP, Karnataka, Telangana. ``This strain was prevalent in December 2020 and January and February 2021 and dropped down drastically in March and now the share of N440K among the positives is very minimal,'' it said.

Genome sequencing was carried out for the samples of Andhra, Telangana and Karnataka in Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad and on an average, around 250 samples are being sent to CCMB from the labs in Andhra every month. Presently (B.1.617) and (B.1) are the major strains identified from the samples the positive cases reported in April in South India (AP, Karnataka,Telangana). , They are very infectious and is also spreading in the younger age groups apart from the adults.

“Although, N440K variant has been shown to be efficient in cell culture system in experimental conditions, it is important to remember that just because a variant behaves a certain way in cell cultures (with no competition, and in controlled settings), it does not mean it will behave the same way in humans, or in a complicated pandemic scenario. N440K story is one such example,'' the release said.

It is pertinent to note that Covid-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update dated 25th April, issued by WHO, mentions about lineage B.1.617 as VOI (Variant of Interest) from India and doesn’t mention the variant N440K. When contacted, Rakesh Mishra, Advisor, CSIR-Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) told Business Line: ``The notion that it is more virulent is totally baseless.''

Published on May 06, 2021

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