After the B.1.617 double mutant virus caused havoc in Maharashtra and was found in more than half of the cases sampled for genome sequencing, a new lineage of coronavirus has been found as well. B.1.618 which can escape immunity has been found by genome experts in West Bengal. This variant can also affect a person who has contracted the virus before and even has antibodies against it.
Experts from the Bengal-based National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (NIBMG) said that based on the sequences of B.1.618, it has a distinct set of genetic variants that included E484K. This means that it is a major immune escape variant that can escape monoclonal antibodies.
While the initial sequence of the B.1.618 variant was found in West Bengal, it has also been found in other parts of this world – the US, Switzerland, Singapore, and Finland. As per analysis, India has almost 62.5% of the B.1.618 variants reported worldwide. It has been a major reason in the current surge in covid cases.
West Bengal reported at least 129 of the 130 B.1.618 sequences in the samples collected.
Vinod Scaria, a researcher at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) in New Delhi gave some information related to the variant over Twitter. He said that E484K, a major immune escape variant can escape multiple monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma.
This means that the infection through this variant makes plasma therapy used for treating covid-19 patients unessential as an investigational treatment. He also mentioned that for now, there are many unknowns for this lineage variant including its capability to cause reinfections in a person as well as vaccine breakthrough infections.
To assess the efficacy of vaccines against this particular variant, additional data is required. The data submitted to the global repository GISAID showed that B.1.618 in India is at 12% and is the third most common variant in the last 2 months span. The B.1.617, at 28 percent, is the most common among sequences, followed by B.1.1.7 (the UK variant), the India Mutation Report by Scripps Research said.