May 12, 2021 7:56:26 pm
Doctors at the genome sequencing laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru have detected 86 new cases of the “double mutant” variant (B.1.617) in Karnataka taking the cumulative number of cases affected with this strain in the state to 148.
This is apart from 86 UK strains and six South Africa variant cases that had been reported earlier in Karnataka.
Speaking to Indianexpress.com, Dr V Ravi, nodal officer for genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 in Karnataka, said “all the 86 cases are from Bengaluru. This variant is slowly replacing other circulating strains in Karnataka and also in other southern states in the past four weeks”.
Dr Ravi, however, said: “The double mutant variant is not the main reason for the ongoing surge in Karnataka.”
The state is reporting more than 35,000 cases every day and more than 400 deaths. On Tuesday, it reported 39,510 new cases of COVID-19, taking the total to 20,13,193. Of these, 15,879 are from Bengaluru city alone. With 480 deaths, the toll rose to 19,852.
Dr Ravi said the surge in Covid-19 cases in Karnataka was because COVID-appropriate behaviour was not being followed. “Double mutant variant is one of the reasons for the spike in Covid-19 cases but the main reason is the lack of covid-19-appropriate behaviour, like not wearing masks, gathering in crowds, and organising super-spreading events,” he said.
The doctor said there are two mutations — L452R and K484Q — in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 that had not been reported together earlier and this is what is being referred to as the double mutant in India while adding that “this double mutant is more infectious than the circulating parent strains”.
The B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus first identified in India last year has been found in 44 countries, says the World Health Organization (WHO), which has classified it as a “variant of concern”. “As of May 11, over 4,500 sequences have been uploaded to GISAID and assigned to B.1.617 from 44 countries in all six WHO regions,” the global health body said in its latest weekly epidemiological update published on Tuesday.
Last month, 20 double mutant cases in the two clusters were reported from Bengaluru and Kalaburgi districts. “The double mutant of Maharashtra is an added prominent factor that is resulting in the surge of cases in the state,” he added.
Meanwhile, Karnataka is not reporting many UK, South Africa and Brazil variants cases, which are also more infectious according to research. “There is no surge in UK, South Africa and Brazil variants, these cases are mainly reported in travellers. The UK variant has caused major community outbreaks in Delhi and Punjab in the second wave, in Karnataka very few in the community got infected from the UK variant,” Dr Ravi explained.
Speaking about the rise in black fungus cases among Covid-19 patients in Bengaluru and if there was a connection to double mutant, Dr Ravi said: “there is no clinical evidence of what B.1.617 mutant virus will do. The doctors speculating about the virus’ connection to Mucormycosis or black fungus is without evidence. There is no direct relation between mutants and black fungus.”
The Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI) is researching eight samples collected from recently infected patients who had shown the symptoms of black fungus.
According to doctors in BMCRI, the institute is researching the cases with the help of doctors from the government-run Minto Ophthalmic Hospital in the city. “In the eight samples of black fungus, six people have succumbed to the mucormycosis and two people have lost their eyes permanently,” a doctor from the institute said.
Many hospitals and eye hospitals in Bengaluru have reported cases of black fungus, including Narayana Nethralaya, People Tree hospitals, Trust Well Hospital, Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital.
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