A new COVID-19 variant has been detected by the National Institute of Virology, Pune. NIV found the new variant - B.18.104.22.168 - through genome sequencing of samples from international travellers who have come to India from the United Kingdom and Brazil.
The results of the pathogenicity study suggest an increase in the severity of the disease, indicating the need for screening of vaccine efficacy. The results of the pre-print study are now available on bioRxiv.
According to the study, the new variant can cause body weight loss, viral replication in the respiratory tract, lung lesions, and was found to cause severe lung pathology in infected Syrian hamster model. A two-dose Covaxin regimen would boost antibody and neutralisation efficacy against the variation. This was found in an unedited manuscript from a different NIV research.
The study on new variant highlighted the importance of genomic surveillance and characterisation of SARS-CoV-2 variations in order to better understand their pathogenicity and immune escape potential for preparedness of counter-measures.
According to the report, genome sequencing labs are looking at the mutants that could have a major impact on disease transmission. Around 30,000 samples have been sequenced by ten national labs under the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genome Sequencing Consortia. The government intends to increase genome sequencing, and recently added 18 more labs to the consortium.
The discovery of the new variant comes just a week after the WHO announced that only one strain of the Covid-19 Delta variant which was first discovered in India, was now regarded "of concern," while two others were downgraded.