In a significant discovery, the scientists have traced the origin of B.1.617 strain of the Sars-Cov2 virus to the United States and Denmark. The B.1.617 strain is largely responsible for the ongoing second wave in India, and it was being dubbed as the Indian variant. But now scientists have determined that the mutations present in the variant had first emerged in California and Denmark, reports Times of India.
According to GISAID, an open-source genome sequencing library, the B.1.617 lineage is divided into 3 sub-lineages – B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 and B.1.617.3 – based on the presence of different mutations. While B.1.617.1 has recorded 192 cases, B.1617.2 has been found in 494 cases in the United States. This includes 126 cases in California, where the original mutation source have originated, 82 in Washington, 42 in New York and 39 in New Jersey among other states.
The B.1617 Covid variant and its sub-variants are responsible for the second wave of the pandemic in India. Following the advent of the second wave in India, microbiologists and genome sequencing specialists found that B.1.617 strain is a combination of 15 mutations and has spike protein mutations, including one L452R that is believed to have originated either from the US or Denmark.
As per microbiologists, another mutation – E484Q was originated in Denmark. The scientists have said that they are not worried about the origin of the mutation but are more interested in finding out how far it can mutate.
“It is now well established that variant B.1.617 is a combination of mutations found in the US. But tracing back the lineage of mutation events from the California event to the current one is difficult to establish. Our focus now will be on which variant is doing what and how we can efficiently handle its transmission. We will be submitting a report on this strain’s source and journey till now,” said scientist Dr Rakesh Mishra, director, CCMB and member, Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG).
Earlier, Dr Mishra had said that India should strengthen the sequencing of re-infections and vaccine breakthroughs. Some scientists in the US believe that the L452R mutated last year itself in March 2020.
Bijaya Dhakal, director, molecular laboratory, at Sonic Reference Laboratory, Texas, US, said that the place of origin and emergence of variants is irrelevant and the scientists should not be identifying the variants by the place/country of emergence. However, it is a matter of record that L452R and E484Q mutations were actually seen in samples collected in Denmark during early March 2020.
The mutations emerged independently of each other in different samples and The L452R mutation was found in the US a month later in April 2020 in Lyon, Nevada, Dr Dhakal added.
“As we start to sequence stored residual samples, the time and place of the origin of the mutations will inevitably change,” he added, sharing the US results of the B.1.617 strains on Monday.
The discovery of the origin of the lethal B.1.617 strain of the Sars-Cov2 virus holds significance as a concerted campaign has been launched lately against India by certain vested interests, including the country’s opposition parties, to attribute the strain to India by naming it as ‘Indian variant’ or ‘Indian strain’.
In fact, the Congress party had gone a step further to name the variant as ‘Modi strain’ in an attempt to defame the Modi government and exploit the ongoing Covid-19 crisis in the country to further their political agenda. The Congress party’s nefarious designs to name the B.1.617 variant after Prime Minister Modi was exposed during the latest toolkit fiasco.