KOLKATA: The Covid-19 virus that is doing the rounds in Bengal is increasingly being found to be an indigenous triple-mutation (B.1.618), only the second one identified from India after the double mutant type (B.1.617) reported last month, reports Subhro Niyogi.
The “Bengal strain”, as a scientist has dubbed it, might be more infective, and — something that experts find particularly worrying — may be capable of escaping a person’s immune surveillance, even if that person was earlier exposed to a virus without this mutation, and even if vaccinated.
There has, however, been no scientific research yet to either corroborate or dismiss the fears.
‘Triple-mutant is immune escape variant’
The proportion of B.1.618 has been growing significantly in recent months in Bengal,” said Vinod Scaria, who researches genome mutations at the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology on Twitter, adding, “along with B.1.617 it forms a major lineage in Bengal”.
The IGIB is part of the Indian SARS-Cov-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG), which was set up to monitor and study whether Indians were getting foreign variants through travellers. It was during these studies that the double mutant variant (containing the E484Q and L452R mutations) was identified, mainly from Maharashtra samples.
What’s worrying scientists is that the triple-mutated variant carries the E484K mutation, a characteristic of the South African and Brazilian variants, which is known to be an immune escape variant. “In other words, you may not be safe from this variant even if you had previously been infected by another strain, or even if you have been vaccinated,” said Sreedhar Chinnaswamy of the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics.

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