A new mutation of the Covid-causing coronavirus (AY.4.2) is believed to be more lethal than the Delta variant. Scientists say the AY.4.2-related findings still carry a high level of uncertainty, and it is early to say that this lineage carries a higher risk of severe illness.
However, as nations across the world experience a spurt in Covid cases, a group of scientists of the INSACOG network monitoring genomic variations in SARS-CoV-2 contended that a new mutated form of the Covid-causing coronavirus (AY.4.2) is present in India ‘in very low numbers’. This mutation that has caused an exponential rise in cases in Europe, Israel, and Russia in the last week is deemed to be more contagious than the Delta virus.
Why does new mutation in India carry high level of uncertainty
Even as it is being increasingly believed that new mutation in India is more lethal than the Delta, scientists say the AY.4.2-related findings still carry a high level of uncertainty. Experts and scientists are not being able to identify the reasons as to why the new mutation in India carries a high level of uncertainty. However, they add that it is still early to say that this lineage carries a higher risk of severe illness or death. Only last week, the US Center for Diseases Control said it had less than 10 reported cases of AY.4.2 in its database so far, but the UK health authorities have found 15,120 cases of AY.4.2 since it was first detected in July.
Dr. Anurag Agrawal, director at CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) while deliberating on the issue said that AY.4.2 is present in India based on the revised definition, but at very low numbers, less than 0.1%. He added that research was still ongoing on the new mutation.
Further details awaited on new mutation
Dr. Agrawal said further details and an exact number of AY.4.2 in India would be available soon. AY.4.2 is a descendant of the Delta variant, which has so far been considered the most dangerous form of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This new mutation is also believed to be spreading its wings in India but at a slow pace.
The Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) is one of the main laboratories involved in the INSACOG genomic surveillance exercise.
AY.4.2, dubbed “Delta Plus” and now named VUI-21OCT-01 by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), has been under closer scrutiny in recent days after evidence indicated that it spread more quickly than the dominant Delta variant. While the investigation is on, so far it does not appear the new VUI causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines currently deployed any less effective.
According to official statistics, the original Delta variant, first identified in India and later classed as Variant of Concern (VOC) in the UK continues to remain overwhelmingly dominant in the UK, making up approximately 99.8 percent of all cases.