The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday said that a new "double mutant variant" of COVID-19 and "variants of concern" have been found in India.
The ministry said in a statement that in a total of 10,787 positive samples shared by states and union territories, 771 COVID-19 variants of concerns (VOCs) have been detected in the country so far.
These include 736 samples positive for viruses of the UK (B.1.1.7) lineage. 34 samples were found positive for viruses of the South African (B.1.351) lineage. One sample was found positive for viruses of the Brazilian (P.1) lineage. The samples with these VOCs have been identified in 18 States of the country, the ministry stated.
The ministry, however, said that VOCs and new double mutant variant have not been found in sufficient numbers to establish or explain the rapid rise in cases in some states. Genomic sequencing and epidemiological studies are continuing to further analyse the situation, it added.
Genome sequencing and analysis have been carried out on samples from arriving international travelers, contacts of those positive for VOC and community samples from most of the States at INSACOG partner laboratories which are 10 in number.
The analysis of samples from Maharashtra has revealed that compared to December 2020, there has been an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations. Such mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity. These mutations have been found in about 15-20 per cent of samples and do not match any previously catalogued VOCs, the ministry stated.
It further stated that from Kerala 2,032 samples (from all 14 districts) have been sequenced. The N440K variant that is associated with immune escape has been found in 123 samples from 11 districts.
This variant was earlier found in 33 per cent of samples from Andhra Pradesh, and in 53 of 104 samples from Telangana. This variant has also been reported from 16 other countries including the UK, Denmark, Singapore, Japan and Australia. As of now these can at best be said to be variant under investigation, the ministry added.