Covid-19: New UK variant is 71% more transmittable than others, says CCMB

Our Bureau Hyderabad | Updated on December 29, 2020

As per CCMB, the mutations have not worsened disease outcomes and do not impede vaccine development.

The new variant of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) which came to India from the UK, is believed to be 71 per cent more transmittable than the other variants, according to CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB).

The mutations have, however, not worsened the symptoms or disease outcomes. They are also not an impediment to the vaccine development. The testing protocol also remains the same.

The only problem is that the new variant spreads more quickly than the others. “The measures to avoid infection still remain the same. Using masks when in presence of others, avoiding crowded places,maintaining physical distancing are the most effective and feasible ways for avoiding this virus, including the new variant”, Rakesh Mishra, Director, CCMB said in a release on Tuesday.

CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) is one of India’s ten research institutes that is tracing the new UK variant here.

Genome Surveillance to assess impact

It is now imperative to launch extensive genome surveillance of the virus to assess the extent of the spread of the new virus,’’ Mishra said.

"We should also keep an eye on other variants that might emerge independently, as India houses the second largest population infected with this virus, at present,’’ he added.

First reported in the UK in September 2020, this variant makes up 60 per cent of all coronavirus infection there. Many countries, including India, have temporarily halted flights from the UK. By tracing and testing 33,000 passengers who have flown into India from the UK, India has confirmed this new variant in the country.

“We have needed to expedite the viral genome sequencing efforts and check for the presence of the new variant in India. We have used both, the traditional Sanger sequencing method as well as the modern Next-Gen Sequencing tools.”, Divya Tej Sowpati who leads the coronavirus genome sequencing efforts at CCMB, said.

The new variant shows 17 mutations in its genetic material. Of these, eight affect its Spike protein, which expresses its outer surface, and binds to the ACE receptors in the host cells.

"One of the mutations is believed to enhance the binding between the virus and the receptors, thus, facilitating its entry into the host cells,’’ the CCMB scientist said.

Published on December 29, 2020

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