Look out for Lambda, 3 more COVID variants, health experts caution Centre

With the Centre planning to open international travel, experts fear it could give Lambda, which has been detected in several countries, a chance to find its way into India

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Even as states increase vigil against the Delta Plus variant of SARS-CoV-2 ahead of a predicted third wave, health experts have suggested the Centre to keep a lookout for four other emerging variants, especially when the government is planning to open international travel, Times of India reported.

The variants are B.1.617.3, a sibling strain of the Delta variant; B.1.1.318, a strain with 14 mutations, and Lambda (C.37), which was categorised as a variant under investigation on June 23; and Kappa (B.1.617.1), another sibling of the Delta variant.

The Kappa variant, however, is said to be less infectious than the Delta or Delta plus variant.

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The Lambda variant, which is spreading quickly across the world is yet to be diagnosed in India, while the B.1.617.3 and B.1.1.318 strains are already present in the country.

Also read: India zooms past US in number of vaccines administered

Experts fear the opening of international travel may allow entry of foreign variants including Lambda into India.

B.1.617, the double mutant, first discovered in Maharashtra, has mutated to three sub-variants – B.1.617.1 (or Kappa), B.1.617.2 (Delta) and B.1.617.3.

So far, 148 genome sequences of B.1617.3 (yet to be named) have been reported in India from the total worldwide sequences of 161.

Of the Kappa variant, 3,083 genome sequences of the total 4,217 have been reported in India.

When it comes to the B.1.1.318 variants, only two genome sequences of 173 detected worldwide have been found in India.

“As these (viruses) mutate they change the ability of the virus to infect in terms of faster rate of transmission, increased virulence and their ability to evade our immune response,” Dr Vignesh Naidu Y, consultant physician at Yashoda Hospitals in Hyderabad told TOI.

Lambda, a variant that is prevalent in Southern Brazil, Peru, and has been reported in several countries in the Americas, Europe and Oceania is being strictly monitored by the Public Health England (PHE) and other countries.

The PHE has also reportedly detected a combination of mutations in the Lambda variant. The strain has shown 1,845 sequences from across the world, GISAID data said.

Also read: SII chief promises help to Indians facing EU travel issues over Covishield

The PHE has said that the variant has a potential for increased transmissibility and may be increasingly resistant to antibodies, calling for a testing of the existing vaccines on the variant.

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