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India ‘double mutant’ strain found – New Covid variant raises alarm as cases surge

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The SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG) in India, a group of 10 national laboratories under the country’s Health Ministry, has carried out genomic sequencing on the samples.

This is a testing process that details the whole genetic code of an organism.

From the 10,787 samples collected, 736 were positive for the UK variant, 34 for the South African variant and one for the Brazilian variant.

The Indian Government said an analysis of the samples collected from the western state of Maharashtra shows “an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations” compared with December.

The Health Ministry said in a statement: “Such [double] mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity.”

India is struggling in its battle with a new surge in coronavirus cases.

On Wednesday, the country reported 47,262 cases and 275 deaths – the highest daily spike this year.

But the Indian government has insisted there is no link between the recent surge in Covid cases and the variants that have so far been detected.

The Health Ministry added: “Though VOCs [variants of concern] and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish a direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states.”

The new worrying findings come with the Indian government under pressure from several experts to ramp up efforts on genome sequencing.

Leading virologist Dr Shahid Jameel told the BBC earlier this month: “We need to constantly monitor and make sure none of the variants of concern are spreading in the population.

“The fact that it is not happening now doesn’t mean it will not happen in the future.

“And we have to make sure that we get the evidence early enough.”

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