A new Covid variant that needs more antibodies to fight it and has more severe symptoms has been found by the National Institute of Virology in Pune. The variant - B.184.108.40.206 - was detected in samples from two travellers from Brazil but not from anyone in India.
The new variant is seen to have "increased severity" and higher levels of antibodies are needed to neutralise the B.220.127.116.11 variant, NIV sources told NDTV. The strain was found in people who came from Brazil and the UK."We found it earlier but it is not in circulation in the country now so we do not see it as a matter of public health importance," the sources said.
"We at NIV interrogate variants for their genetic features and study how well they bind to antibodies generated after vaccination and natural infection. The pathogenicity evaluation of the virus shows increased disease severity," they added.
No sample sequenced from India so far has been of this variant of the virus, NIV scientists asserted, warning against any panic.
Variants of the coronavirus are driving new surges, say experts who recommend fast vaccinations to stay ahead of the constantly mutating Covid.
A government study, which is still ongoing, says there are more than 12,200 "Variants of Concern" in the country, as revealed by genomic sequencing, but their presence is miniscule compared to the Delta variant, which replaced all other variants in the second wave.
The study said the Delta strain, first found in India, drove the second wave of Covid that engulfed the country in April-May.The Delta variant - or the B.1.617.2 strain - is "more infectious" than the Alpha variant first detected in Kent, UK, said the study by scientists of the Indian SARS COV2 Genomic Consortia and the National Centre for Disease Control.
Genome sequencing of 29,000 Covid case samples have been done in India, the study says. The B.1.617 has been found in 8,900 samples. More than 1,000 of those samples tested for the Delta variant.