Health experts believe that there are four more emerging coronavirus variants, including two of the Delta (B.1.617.2) family -- B.1.617.3, and Kappa (B.1.617.1) -- even though they have been less infectious than Delta or Delta Plus. The other two are B.1.1.318, which has 14 mutations, and Lambda (C.37), designated as a ‘variant under investigation’ on June 3.
While B.1.617.3 and B.1.1.318 are already present in India, the fast-spreading Lambda is yet to arrive.
It is well known that the Delta family first originated in India. Hence, the two latest mutations are widespread in the country.
The Kappa (B.1.617.1) variant, Delta (B.1.617.2) and their sibling (B.1.617.3) came from a double mutant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.617, first identified in Maharashtra. The World Health Organization (WHO) has clubbed the B.1.617.3 variant under Kappa.
India reported 148 genome sequences of the B.1.617.3 variant out of the total of 161 worldwide till June 22. Besides, India has also reported 3,083 sequences of the Kappa variant out of a total of 4,217 found across the world, according to a report in The Times of India.
The B.1.1.318 variant has mutated from E484K, which was first identified in the South African SARS-CoV-2 strain (B.1.351). It is also found in the variant that emerged from Brazil (B.1.1.28).
According to GISAID data, the presence of the emerging variant is relatively low in India, which has two genome sequences out of a total of 173 reported across the world.
GISAID is a global science initiative that provides open access to genomic data of all influenza viruses and the novel coronavirus.
The Lambda (C.37) lineage, which falls within the B.1.1.1 variant, was first reported in southern Brazil, according to News Medical Life Sciences. It is highly prevalent in Peru and has been identified across North and South America, Europe and Oceania.
The WHO classified it as a ‘variant of interest’ on June 15, 2021, while several reports assumed that the Lambda strain also has the potential of becoming a ‘variant of concern.’ As of now, it is under investigation.
As per the GISAID data, 1,845 sequences of Lambda have been found across the world. The Public Health England (PHE) has kept Lambda under watch, while warning in its June 25 report that it is potentially more transmissible than the other variants and has increased resistance to neutralising antibodies.
According to experts, more and more genomic surveillance to identify the emerging variants is the only way to find out the challenges they pose and their subsequent solutions.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)