New Covid Strain in Amaravati Can Trigger Early Pneumonia, Escape Neutralising Antibodies: Report

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The new coronavirus strains found in Maharashtra's Amravati and Akola districts can trigger early pneumonia in Covid-19 patients, said an expert. The new strain is more transmissible, said an adviser to the state who was on tour to districts where Covid cases had increased rapidly.

"It appears pneumonia is setting in early, thereby increasing the possibility of more deaths if cases rise rapidly," TOI reported Dr Subhash Salunkhe as saying.

Recently, researchers in Maharashtra had reportedly found two new mutations in coronavirus samples from Amravati and Yavatmal districts which can escape neutralising antibodies. Both the districts showed considerable increase in new cases in the last one week, said a PTI report.

At one centre in Amravati, 350 out of 700 people had tested positive for the new mutation. The spread could be from Nagpur till Aurangabad, said Dr Salunkhe, adding that there was only a 15-day window available to contain the outbreak before it spread to other parts of the country.

"Nagpur to Aurangabad is a massive stretch, but with great contact and connectivity...We have a window of 15 days to contain this outbreak before it spreads to the rest of the state and country," he said.

Terming the ongoing rise in cases in Amravati and Akola districts as "exponential", Dr Salunkhe said that the spread was "extremely unusual" and the only upside till now was that the spread appeared to be in an "isolated small pocket".

State government officials on Thursday said that genome sequencing was done for 24 samples -- four each from Amravati, Yavatmal and Satara and 12 from Pune. However, none of the samples showed the UK, South African or Brazilian strains of the virus in them, said Dr Rajesh Karyekarte, Head of Department of Microbiologyat the state-run B J Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital in Pune.

However, in Amravati, Yavatmal and Satara, researchers had come across different mutations, he said, adding that in Amravati, researchers found a mutation named E484K in all the four samples. When inquired, it was found that all the four samples were taken from different locations, so the researchers concluded that it was a common mutation.

In Satara sample, a new mutation named V911I was found but the researchers could not find significant scientific references about the particular mutation in published journals, he said, adding that all the strains were of A2 type of coronavirus, which was common in India.

Maharashtra on Thursday reported over 5,000 new cases after a gap of 75 days.