As India reports nearly three lakh cases and over 2,000 deaths in 24 hours, the biggest jump since the pandemic erupted, a new mutation in the COVID virus has emerged as the new challenge.
After the double mutation, its now the triple mutation, meaning three different Covid strains combining to form a new variant, has been detected in parts of the country.
States like Maharashtra, Delhi and West Bengal are believed to have cases driven by the triple mutant.
Scientists believe the new surges globally are driven by new variants.
“This is a more transmissible variant. It is making lots of people sick very quickly,” said Madhukar Pai, professor of epidemiology at McGill University.
“We have to keep tweaking vaccines. For that we need to understand the disease. But we need sequencing on war footing,” Dr Pai told NDTV.
That sets up a huge challenge for India, where genome sequencing is being done for less than one per cent of all cases, currently.
According to Dr Pai, the delay in detecting the double mutation may have contributed to the current virus spurt.
Why so many mutations?
The more a virus spreads, the more it replicates and the more it mutates.
What is the triple mutation?
A double mutation, which surfaced in India, was when two strains combined. Now three Covid variants have combined to form the triple mutation.
Where has the triple mutation been found?
Maharashtra, West Bengal, Delhi
Is the triple mutation infectious?
How infectious the triple mutation is, or how deadly, will be known only from more studies. For now, only 10 labs across India are involved in virus genome studies.
The double mutant shows increased transmission rate and is seen to affect children too. It has more severe pathogenicity, say scientists.
For now, the triple mutation has been classified in India as a “variant of interest” rather than “variant of concern”.
Will existing vaccines work against the triple mutation?
Two of the three variants in the triple mutation have been seen to have immune escape responses, meaning they are more resistant to antibodies. Not much more is known yet on the effectiveness of vaccines. Scientists believe the new variant has some ability to escape the body’s naturally acquired immunity to Covid.