Daily News Analysis

‘Double mutant’ virus variant found  

25th March, 2021 Health

Context: A unique “double mutant” coronavirus variant with a combination of mutations not seen anywhere else in the world has been found in India.



  • It is still to be established if this has any role to play in increased infectivity or in making COVID-19 more severe.
  • Genome sequencing of a section of virus samples by a consortium of 10 laboratories across the country, called the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), revealed the presence of two mutations, E484Q and L452R
  • While the two mutations have been individually identified in other variants of SARS-CoV-2 globally and have been associated with a reduction in vaccine efficacy, their combined effect and biological implications have not yet been understood.
  • A government statement on Wednesday said 736 samples from across the country had so far been found to have UK lineage.
  • 34 samples were found to have the “South African lineage”, and one had the “Brazilian lineage”.


Slow Genome sequencing:

  • India has the second highest number of people infected with the coronavirus during the epidemic.
  • But it has done very few genome sequences of the different variants in circulation.
  • This includes the sequencing of 10,787 samples since the government set up INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV2 Consortium on Genomics) in December specifically for this purpose.
  • The stated objective of INSACOG is to sequence the samples from at least 5% of all the infected cases through a network of ten laboratories.The 19,092 samples that have sequenced till now form just 0.16% of that number.


Why it’s been slow:

  • One of the major reasons for the slow pace of genome sequencing has been a lack of funds. So far, no money has been allocated for INSACOG, although officials said approval for funds was now expected any day.
  • The laboratories have been using money from their own annual budgets to do the sequencing work. The cost is mainly of the chemical reagents that are required in the process.
  • States have not been proactively sending their samples to the laboratories for sequencing.