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New Indian SARS-CoV-2 "Double Mutant" Discovered

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

Another day, another new SARS-CoV-2 variant.

This time the new variant was discovered in India, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), a group of 10 national laboratories under India's health ministry, found the variant after sequencing the latest population samples from the western state of Maharashtra (The local Maharashtra government authorities have wisely instituted a night curfew to begin on March 28, 2021, that limits public gatherings to stem the second wave).

This new variant is a "double mutant" containing the E484Q and L452R mutations. The E484Q mutation is similar to E484K - a mutation seen in the B.1.351 (South Africa) and P.1 (Brazil) variants. The L452R mutation, on the other hand, is similar to the mutation seen in the B.1.427/B.1.429 lineage in the US, which is sometimes called the "California variant" after it emerged in Los Angeles county in July 2020.

New mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 seems to be emerging in a rapid pace which is concerning as scientists worry that eventually a new variant may emerge that significantly decreases the effectiveness of current available vaccines. There is still little to no data on how well the current vaccines protect against the Brazil variant, nor on how long the vaccine is protective for (e.g., when a third booster is needed).

Asymptomatic patients and those patients with compromised immune systems are perfect hosts for the SARS-CoV-2 to evolve new variants as it adapts more and more to spreading more effectively amongst human populations. This is why public health measures must still be stringently adhered to even if cases begin to show signs of decrease in an area.

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