‘Double mutant’ virus variant found
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.