UK variant won’t be in all infected Britain returnees: NIV | Pune News – Times of India

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PUNE: Scientists at the National Institute of Virology (NIV), who analysed samples of five Covid-positive UK returnees for a study, said four had all the hallmarks of the mutated UK variant — also known as Variant of Concern or (VOC) 202012/01.

Dr Pragya D Yadav, head of the NIV’s Maximum Containment Facility, said lab studies were able to pick up all the 17 signature mutations of the variant.
“However, we cannot rule out the possibility of more mutations in this variant, due to its continuous passage in human hosts,” Dr Yadav said.
The NIV scientists said analysis of the fifth sample, revealed not the UK variant, but another SARS-CoV-2 strain predominant in various parts of the world.
“This means that all positive UK returnees may not have the UK mutant in their samples. In the same country, people can be infected with different variants of the virus and they can transport them to other countries via travel,” said Dr Yadav.
She added that there are many SARS-CoV-2 clades — or branches — circulating in several parts of the world, including India, and they could be undergoing more mutations. The scientist, however, added that not every mutation is worrisome.
Dr Yadav said that after molecular characterization of a mutant, studies can be performed — including monoclonal antibody evaluation — to determine the threat from these changes.
“Such efforts can help us know if lab-designed monoclonal antibodies can neutralize these new variants. A strengthened surveillance system is needed to catch more cases and curb local transmission of the UK mutant,” she said.
So far, India has detected 165 cases with the more infectious UK variant. Also called, B117, scientists have estimated it is at least 50% more transmissible.
It was picked up late December in the United States, where experts have warned that it could become the dominant Covid strain.
Dr Samiran Panda, head of the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) epidemiology and communicable diseases division, said, “Structural changes viruses undergo are referred to as mutations. Small changes in them are referred to as antigenic drifts and the big ones as antigenic shifts. These changes need to be tracked to determine transmissibility and virulence levels.”
He addedthat analysis of the changes in the pathogen can help test defensive measures such as vaccines.
“Scientists can perform experiments with these variants at their disposal — such as checking the efficacy of a vaccine or a drug against them,” Dr Panda said.



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