New covid-19 variant 'Delta plus' identified; Should India be worried?

Agencies
June 14, 2021

The highly transmissible Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has mutated further to form the ‘Delta plus’ or ‘AY.1’ variant but there is no immediate cause for concern in India as its incidence in the country is still low, scientists said.

The new Delta plus variant has been formed due to a mutation in the Delta or B.1.617.2 variant, first identified in India and one of the drivers of the deadly second wave. Though there is no indication yet of the severity of the disease due to the new variant, Delta plus is resistant to the monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for Covid-19 recently authorised in India.

“One of the emerging variants is B.1.617.2.1 also known as AY.1 characterized by the acquisition of K417N mutation,” Vinod Scaria, clinician and scientist at Delhi’s CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), tweeted on Sunday.  

The mutation, he said, is in the spike protein of SARS-COV-2, which helps the virus enter and infect the human cells.  

According to Public Health England, 63 genomes of Delta (B.1.617.2) with the new K417N mutation have been identified so far on the global science initiative GISAID.  

In its latest report on coronavirus variants, updated till last Friday, the health agency said Delta plus was present in six genomes from India as of June 7.  

“The variant frequency for K417N is not much in India at this point in time. The sequences are mostly from Europe, Asia and America,” Scaria wrote on Twitter.  

The earliest sequence of this genome was found in Europe in late March this year.  

Noting that the travel histories for the variant are not readily available to make assumptions, Scaria said an important point to consider regarding K417N is the “evidence suggesting resistance to monoclonal antibodies Casirivimab and Imdevimab”.

This cocktail recently received emergency-use authorization in the country from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation. Drug majors Roche India and Ciplas have priced the antibody cocktail at a steep Rs 59,750 per dose.  

Similar to antibodies which are proteins that the body naturally produces to defend itself against the disease, monoclonal antibodies are artificially created in a lab and tailor-made to fight the disease they treat.  

Casirivimab and Imdevimab are monoclonal antibodies that are specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, and designed to block the virus' attachment and entry into human cells.  

Scaria also indicated the mutation may be associated with the ability to escape the immune response against the virus.

Allaying fears, immunologist Vineeta Bal noted that while there may be some setback in the use of commercial antibody cocktail due to the new variant, resistance to the therapy is not an indication of higher virulence or severity of a disease.  

“How transmissible this new variant is will be a crucial factor to determine its rapid spread or otherwise,” Bal, guest faculty at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, told PTI.  

She also noted that the quality and quantity of neutralising antibodies, responsible for defending cells from pathogens, generated in the individual infected with the new variant is unlikely to be affected because of the mutation.  

“Thus in individuals catching infection with the new variant, it may not be a matter worth worrying,” she added. 

Pulmonologist and medical researcher Anurag Agrawal concurred.  

“There is no cause of concern due to the new variant in India as of now,” Agrawal, the director of CSIR-IGIB, told PTI.

The scientist said the blood plasma from many fully vaccinated individuals will have to be tested against this variant to determine whether it shows any significant immune escape.  As the Delta variant continues to evolve and acquire new mutations, there is a lot of interest in understanding its evolution. He said SARS-CoV-2 has a nearly constant rate of acquiring genetic variants, and each variant has acquired additional variants in a stepwise fashion.

“Understanding this continued evolution is of great importance in mapping the evolutionary landscape of emerging variants. Largely the virus has tried to optimise for transmission and immune escape by step-wise acquisition of new mutations,” he added 

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News Network
August 11,2022

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Lucknow, Aug 11: Apparently stung by conviction of one of its ministers and issuance of NBW against another, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is contemplating withdrawal of criminal cases against the ministers and ruling party legislators.

According to the sources, the process of withdrawal of criminal cases could soon be initiated after consultation with the law department. ''Only politically motivated cases will be withdrawn... serious cases will not be withdrawn... many of the cases against the ministers and party legislators were lodged during the governments of the opposition parties,'' said a senior BJP leader was quoted as saying by local news papers.

The leader claimed that a majority of cases were ''politically motivated'' and there was nothing wrong in withdrawing them.

Of the 52 ministers in the UP cabinet, as many as 22 had criminal cases pending against them. A majority of them faced criminal cases in which they could get five-year prison terms if convicted. More than half of the 403 MLAs in the state assembly faced criminal cases. The ministers who faced criminal cases included deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, Yogendra Upadhyaya, Dharmpal Singh Nand Gopal Nandy and some others.

The state government had faced attacks from the opposition parties over the conviction of minister for micro, small and medium enterprises Rakesh Sachan under Arms Act by a Kanpur court and the issuance of NBW against minister and BJP's alliance partner Nishad Party's president Sanjay Nishad.

The SP and the Congress demanded immediate sacking of the ministers. 

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August 10,2022

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Bengaluru, Aug 10: The Bharatiya Janata Party state unit president Nalin Kumar Kateel in Karnataka said that Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai will continue for the full term and the upcoming polls will take place under the guidance of BS Yediyurappa.

“There has been no discussion regarding the change of Chief Minister in the BJP-led government. Basavaraja Bommai will continue as Chief Minister for the full term. The upcoming Vidhan Sabha election will be held Under the guidance of BS Yediyurappa, we are going to face it under the leadership of Bommai,” Nalin Kumar Kateel said.

Reacting to the Congress’s tweet about Bommai’s ouster, he highlighted that Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were facing investigation by the Enforcement Directorate and recently KPCC president D.K.Shivakumar has gotten bail from the court. Kateel alleged that Congress was creating confusion like this to hide it all.

“Congress has tweeted this to save the party by hiding its scandals that have come out, the confusion about the chief ministerial candidate is going on in the Congress, they are discussing to make a Dalit the chief minister of the state,” he said.

“After the Siddaramaotsava, there has been a lot of internal fighting in Congress. Senior politicians like KB Koliwada have created a situation where Siddaramaiah was scolded. The debate about who will be the next Chief Minister is increasing. Congress tweeted that he will become the third chief minister in the state government to cover its internal conflicts, street fights and confusions of the party,” Kateel said.

Asserting that the Congress’ status will be witnessed after the results of the Vidhan Sabha elections, he further said, “Congress will not play the game of creating confusion. Let it resolve its internal confusion first and face the elections together.”

Earlier, Referring to the current political developments in the State and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Congress in a series of tweets took jibes at the government and said that the state appears set to see a third Chief Minister after Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Bengaluru last week.

The Congress said that the Bommai government, which has not been able to conduct its first-anniversary “Janotsva”, will soon see its end.

The Congress had said that it looks like Bommai is counting the hours to leave the chair and asked Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, “Dear Bommai, the ‘sword fight’ for the CM has been started. What is the reason for the change of CM, is it your administrative failure, a fight between leaders, or is it B.S. Yediyurappa’s anger?”

These comments from Congress came a day after former BJP MLA B. Suresh Gowda claimed that the party’s top leadership was considering replacing Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai. He had said, “The Chief Minister might get replaced before Independence Day. There have been talks in the party.”

The Opposition Congress, taking a dig at Bommai, tweeted, “40% government is likely to see a third Chief Minister.” In another tweet, the party said that “the puppet CM Bommai is on his way out.”

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August 6,2022

Bengaluru, Aug 6: Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai on Saturday tested positive for Covid-19 with mild symptoms.

His trip to New Delhi stands cancelled. The CM is under self-isolation.

Bommai was to travel to New Delhi today to take part in third meeting of the national committee of 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' and NITI Aayog's Governing Council meeting to be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi this evening and August 7 morning respectively.

He was also expected to meet BJP's national leadership and hold discussions regarding recent developments in the state and preparations for 2023 assembly polls. 

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