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Indian researchers mark virus mutations that can ‘avoid immune response’



People get their names registered after receiving a dose of COVISHIELD, a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, at a vaccination center in Ahmedabad, India, May 1, 2021. REUTERS / Amit Dave

A forum of scientific advisers set up by the Indian government has told authorities about minor mutations in some samples of coronavirus that may “avoid immune response”

; and require more investigation, a leader of the forum told Reuters.

However, advisers said while marking the mutations, there was currently no reason to believe they were expanding or could be dangerous.

Researchers are investigating what led to the current rise in cases in India, and in particular whether a variant first discovered in the country, called B.1.617, is to blame. The World Health Organization has not declared the Indian variant a “concern variant”, as it has done for variants first discovered in Britain, Brazil and South Africa. But the WHO said on April 27 that its early modeling based on genome sequencing suggested that B.1.617 had a higher growth rate than other varieties circulating in India. Read more

The Advisory Forum, known as the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium, or INSACOG, has now found several mutations in the coronavirus that it believes need to be closely monitored.

“We are seeing some mutations coming up in some samples that may avoid immune responses,” said Shahid Jameel, chair of the INSACOG Scientific Advisory Group and a top Indian virologist. He did not say whether the mutations have been seen in the Indian variant or any other strain.

“Unless you grow these viruses and test them in the laboratory, you can not say for sure. At this point, there is no reason to believe that they are spreading or whether they could be dangerous, but we marked it so we keep our eye on the ball, ”he said.

INSACOG brings together 10 national research laboratories.

India reported more than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time on Saturday. The violent infections have collapsed its healthcare system in places, including the capital New Delhi, with a shortage of medical oxygen and hospital beds. Read more

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