Public Health England, the executive agency of the UK department of health, has equated the novel coronavirus sub-lineage, B.1.617.2 of Indian variant or double mutant B.1.617, with the UK strain B.1.1.7 in terms of transmission rate.
This sub-lineage was earlier declared as a ‘variant of concern’. Apart from the UK, the sub-lineage B.1.617.2 is prevalent in Maharashtra and other parts of India. Its presence, however, is yet to be established in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, though the main variant, B.1.617, is present in the Telugu states. The UK variant B.1.1.7 is also found in the Telugu states to a lesser extent.
According to the latest update of novel coronavirus variants by Public Health England, B.1.617.2 is assessed as at least as transmissible as B.1.1.7 with moderate confidence. This is biologically plausible based on the mutation profile. “It can compete with B.1.1.7 in the population and modelled growth estimates, suggesting transmissibility at least equal to B.1.1.7,” the UK health agency said.
Referring to its neutralising potential against known Covid-19 vaccines, the report said as of now there is insufficient data to assess the potential for immune escape.
“B.1.617.2 has spread rapidly in India based on available data. In some regions, S gene target data suggests that this variant may be more frequent than is indicated by the current sequence data, due to the lag in sequencing, and may have replaced B.1.1.7 to some extent. Modelled growth estimates suggest that the variant is at least as transmissible as B.1.1.7,” the report added.