BEVERLY HILLS, April 28, (THEWILL) – The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported the detection in over a dozen countries of a variant of COVID-19 feared to be contributing to rising coronavirus cases in India.
The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of COVID-19 first found in India had as of Tuesday been detected in over 1,200 sequences uploaded to the GISAID open-access database “from at least 17 countries”.
“Most sequences were uploaded from India, the United Kingdom, USA and Singapore”, the WHO said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.
The WHO recently listed B.1.617, which counts several sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics as a “variant of interest”. But so far it has stopped short of declaring it a “variant of concern”.
That label would indicate that it is more dangerous than the original version of the virus by being more transmissible, deadly or able to dodge vaccine protections.
India is facing surging new cases and deaths in the pandemic, and fears are rising that the variant could be contributing to the unfolding catastrophe.
The explosion in infections in India has seen over 350,000 new cases recorded on Tuesday alone. This has driven a surge in global cases to 147.7 million. The virus has now killed more than 3.1 million people worldwide.
The WHO acknowledged that its preliminary modelling based on sequences submitted to GISAID indicates “that B.1.617 has a higher growth rate than other circulating variants in India, suggesting potential increased transmissibility”.
It stressed that other variants circulating at the same time were also showing increased transmissibility, and that the combination “may be playing a role in the current resurgence in this country.”