The Union Health Ministry said on 9 July that the Kappa variant of the SARS-CoV-2 is a “variant of interest”. This mutated version of the novel virus is not new as the cases have been found earlier in India, the ministry added. But this variant gained the spotlight and became one of the most trending topics on social media after the Uttar Pradesh government released the findings related to both Delta and Kappa variants.
The findings of the first batch of genome sequencing of the novel coronavirus, performed at the King George Medical University in Lucknow, were revealed by the Uttar Pradesh government on 9 July.
As reported, the Delta variant—which is according to the World Health Organization is a “variant of concern”—was found in 107 of the 109 samples tested, whereas the Kappa variant was found in the remaining two.
Compared to Delta, which has been found in several countries and became the dominant coronavirus variant in the United States, the Kappa variant has received less attention because it was previously known by a different name. It was only a few weeks ago that the World Health Organization (WHO) gave it the name Kappa.
The Kappa variant, which has been around for a while in India, is also known as the B.1.617.1. It is actually the sibling of the Delta variant and both of them are the direct descendants of a SARS-CoV-2 variant which earlier used to be called as “double mutant” or B.1.617.
The so-called double mutant variant, first detected in India mutated further into three significant variants which are—B.1.617.1 (Kappa), B.1.617.2 (Delta), and B.1.617.3 (no specific name).
However, in terms of the Kappa variant, experts found that it includes E484Q and L453R mutations. This variant was first detected in India in October 2020. Later, the WHO labelled it as the “variant of interest”.
According to the Uttar Pradesh authorities, the Kappa variant found in the state is not a cause for concern, as such mutations and variants are expected from viruses. The additional chief secretary (health) Amit Mohan Prasad said that there is nothing to be worried about at this point, as this is just another variant of the SARS-CoV-2.
As reported by ANI, Dr VK Paul, NITI Aayog member said: “It (Kappa Variant) was detected at the same time when Delta variant was reported. But it got overshadowed by Delta variant during the second wave.” He said if Kappa variant related cases are being found now, it means that “the variant has stayed in the country”.
According to him, “Kappa is much less in its intensity. Our watch will continue. Kappa variant was earlier reported in February and March also.” Additionally, Dr Paul said: “We need to keep an eye on the scientific impact and vaccine immunity of Kappa variant.”
Since the Kappa variant possesses the L453R mutation, it has been claimed that it may be able to evade the immune response. But there is no solid proof and scientists are still studying the mutation.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin jab is effective against this variant, while in June, the University of Oxford published a study claiming that Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, as well as Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA jab, remain broadly effective against Delta and Kappa variant.