Scientists have reported that a new lineage of SARS-CoV-2, named B.1.618, has been found in India.
According to a report by Hindustan Times, after the B.1.617 “new mutant variant” was found in more than 60 per cent of cases sampled for genome sequencing in Maharashtra, B.1.618, the new variant, has been growing significantly in West Bengal.
A separate report by India Today states that it is characterised by a distinct set of genetic variants including E484K, and is being called a major immune escape variant, that is it can escape immunity even if a person has contracted the virus before and has the ability to produce antibodies against it.
Experts have suggested that the initial sequences in the B.1.618 variant were found in West Bengal, which is currently witnessing state elections. Moreover, members of this lineage have also been found in other parts of the world in the US, Switzerland, Singapore and Finland. The variant was first found in a sample outside of India on April 22, 2020.
At least 129 of the 130 B.1.618 sequences in India were found in samples from West Bengal. Currently, India has 62.5 per cent of the B.1.618 variants reported in the world, as per analysis on the outbreak.info.
Data submitted from India to the global repository GISAID shows B.1.618, at 12 per cent, is the third most common variant sequenced in the last 60 days. The B.1.617, at 28 per cent, is the most common among sequences, followed by B.1.1.7 (the UK variant), the India Mutation Report by Scripps Research showed, citing the GISAID data.