Three samples sent to CCMB found positive for UK variant of coronavirus

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Eds: Adds details of CCMB press release Hyderabad, Dec 29 (PTI) Three people who returned from the UK recently, were infected with the mutated strain of coronavirus, a top official of the CCMB here said on Tuesday.

Around 40 samples were sent to CSIR- Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) for ascertaining the presence of the new variant out of which three had the new strain.

'CCMB has received about 40 samples of COVID-19 positive patients who returned from the UK recently.Some of them have wrongly tested positive for the virus.' 'We finished sequencing (for a new variant) of 20 samples, out of which three are positive of this strain (new variant from UK),' Rakesh Mishra, Director, CSIR-CCMB told PTI.

Mishra said there is no surprise that the new variant of the virus is found in some of the samples.

According to the official, large-scale testing is the need of the hour and people need not worry too much about the new strain.

'It (new strain of COVID-19) is just fresh, otherwise, it is the same virus and not much of an issue.Same symptoms, mortality, everything is the same we just have to take precautions,' he said, adding that the new strain may spread faster.

He said India is the largest reservoir of coronavirus and people should take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

According to the government, 1,216 people have returned from the UK to Telangana since December 9 and out of them 1060 have been traced and six of them left for different countries while 58 belong to other states.

The state government has conducted tests on 996 people, out of which 21 tested positive and the results of nine more are awaited.

The new variant of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19, is believed to be 71 per cent more transmissible than the other variants,a press release from CCMB said on Tuesday.

First reported in the UK in September 2020, this variant makes up for 60 per cent of all coronavirus infection there.Many countries including India have temporarily halted flights from the UK.

By tracing and testing 33,000 passengers who have flown in to India from the UK, India has confirmed the presence of this new variant in the country.

'We have needed to expedite the viral genome sequencing efforts, and check for the presence of the new variant in India.' 'We have used both, the traditional Sanger sequencing method as well as the modern Next-Gen Sequencing tools,' Divya Tej Sowpati, who leads the coronavirus genome sequencing efforts at CCMB here, said.

The new variant shows 17 mutations in its genetic material. Of these eight affect itsSpike protein, which expresses on its outer surface, and binds to the ACE receptors (angiotensin-converting enzyme) in the host cells, according to the release.

One of the mutations is believed to enhance the binding between the virus and the receptors, thus, facilitating its entry into the host cells.

The mutations have, however, not worsened the symptoms or the disease outcomes. They are also not an impediment to the vaccine development.

The testing protocol also remains the same. The only problem is that the new variant spreads more easily than the others, CCMB said. PTI GDK ROH BN WELCOME WELCOME