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COVID-19 variants: India's failure to monitor new strains worries experts

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With new infections rising on an average by over three lakh cases for 14 consecutive days, India’s limited ability to track new mutations emerging from its outbreak is a growing concern for scientists.

COVID-19 variants: India's failure to monitor new strains worries experts
The COVID-19 vaccines, now in use in India, work against the new virus strain currently wreaking havoc in India and several other countries. But what concerns scientists is that this strain will not remain as the only version of the pathogen to emerge from the recent pandemic, a Bloomberg report mentioned.
The report highlighted that India's struggle to track new variants could worsen the COVID-19 crisis. With new infections rising on an average by over three lakh cases for 14 consecutive days, India’s limited ability to track new mutations emerging from its outbreak is a growing concern for scientists, the report added.
Second or even third-generation versions of the COVID-19 virus variant known as B.1.617 could already be circulating in India and some are likely to be more deadly, the report said, quoting William Haseltine, a former Harvard Medical School professor and current chairperson at Access Health International, a US-based think tank.
The new strain found in India is called a double mutant because of the presence of two changes in the genome of the virus. Some researchers estimate that the B.1.617 variant is as transmissible as the B.1.1.7 variant that emerged in the UK, the report added.
According to the report, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin expressed confidence that the mRNA shot his lab is making in collaboration with Pfizer would work against the India mutant, though testing is still underway, the report mentioned.
Researchers are focusing on the next set of variants while the findings ease concerns around the B.1.617 variant. The World Health Organization (WHO) has been watching variants through a global working group of laboratories, the report added.
Currently, India’s labs are not well-equipped to carry out necessary monitoring of the new strains as the country's health infrastructure is already under severe stress, the report said.
India has registered 4.12 lakh new COVID-19 cases on May 6, which has taken the total tally to over two crore cases, with as many as 2,30,168 casualties. The Phase 3 of immunisation to vaccinate the age group of 18-44, which commenced from May 1, has got off to a slow start.

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