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Insacog set to scan data as Vietnam reports a hybrid variant

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With Vietnam reporting detection of a new SARS-COV-2 variant which is a combination of B.1.617 (first detected in India) and B.1.117 (found first in the UK), India has decided to scan GISAID data for the mutation.

ET has gathered that the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (Insacog), the national consortium of top scientific institutes involved in genome sequencing of SARS-COV-2, has decided to activate all its units to check for any Vietnam-type mutation.

“We are looking at it closely. In fact, we have already started the process. We will be examining our GISAID data on genome sequencing for this purpose,” an Insacog member confirmed to ET.

“We will ask all our laboratories to check for the mutation immediately,” the member said.

B.1.617 is the dominant variant across India and accounts for more than half of the total cases, indicating the highest community prevalence, as per May 15 data. B.1.117, which was predominant two months back, is also present significantly in India.

B.1.617.2, a subtype of B.1.617, is reportedly spreading fast across India as well as other countries. The UK had on May 6 termed the subtype a ‘variant of concern’. Both B.1.117 and B.1.617 are associated with high transmission levels.

A mutation in B.1.617.2, which is similar to the variant first found in the UK, is said to be behind the fresh surge in infections in Vietnam. In a fresh Covid-19 surge, Vietnam has recorded over 6,800 infections and nearly 50 deaths.

“Re the report of variant from Vietnam:@WHO country office and @WHOAPRO are working with MOH. The variant detected is B.1.617.2 with an additional mutation(s), but more info soon,” Senior World Health Organization epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove tweeted.

On Saturday, Vietnamese health minister Nguyen Thanh Long was quoted as saying that the country’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology had detected at least four Covid-19 patients affected by the hybrid variant. “Vietnam has uncovered a new Covid-19 variant combining the characteristics of the two existing variants first found in India and the UK,” the health minister was quoted as saying by Reuters.

Vietnam is yet to record this hybrid variant’s data on GISAID, the open-source global repository of genome sequencing on SARS-COV-2, but is expected to do so soon. Vietnam’s health minister said the fresh surge indicated the presence of multiple variants, some of which were spreading very fast. The spread has been more pronounced in industrial zones and areas where major multinationals run factories.

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