N440K Covid variant not new, diminishing in India, says CSIR
Coronavirus variant N440K is prevalent since last year in south India and it is diminishing, say scientists at the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB).
Several reports have emerged suspecting the role of the variant behind the surge in Covid cases in Andhra Pradesh.
“The mutant is not new. We have been seeing it in south India since last year,” the scientists said on Wednesday.
The new Covid variant, named as the AP strain, which was identified in Kurnool district, is believed to be 15 times more deadly and stronger than other Indian variants.
When the variant was examined in controlled cell culture, it made more copies. However, “it does not necessarily mean that it can compete with other variants just the same way in a real life pandemic where new variants keep coming up. Our genome studies say that N440K is now diminishing”, the scientists said.
The N440K variant, associated with immune escape, had been detected in the labs of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG).
INSACOG, a grouping of 10 national laboratories — has been carrying out genomic sequencing and analysis of circulating Covid-19 viruses, and correlating epidemiological trends with genomic variants.
The variant was found in 123 samples from 11 districts in Kerala; 33 per cent of samples from Andhra Pradesh, and in 53 of 104 samples from Telangana.
It has also been reported from 16 other countries, including the UK, Denmark, Singapore, Japan and Australia. As of now, these can be at best said to be variants under investigation.
“Our main focus as a community should be on reducing the spread of coronavirus. The more it spreads, the more variants come up, the more mess we create by increasing uncertainties and fear,” the scientists said.
“Mask up, avoid crowds by all means, maintain hygiene and good ventilation, and take your vaccine shots. They all help in preventing the spread of the virus in one way or the other,” they added.