New Covid Variant With More Severity Detected By NIV Pune Sc
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Scientists at Pune’s National Institute of Virology have isolated and characterised a coronavirus variant from two travellers -- one who returned from the UK and the other from Brazil -- that exhibits increased disease severity in hamsters but doesn’t pose a public health problem at the moment. The two samples of the B. variant are the only ones of its kind isolated by Indian labs so far.

To understand the pathogenicity of the variant, researchers infected nine Syrian hamsters with the B. variant and compared it to nine animals infected with the B.1 variant, which is defined by one mutation of concern in spike protein, i.e D614G. Spike protein helps the virus to infect and enter human cells.

The authors noted that B. induced body weight loss, viral reproduction in the respiratory tract, lung lesions, and caused severe lung disease in the infected hamsters in comparison with those infected with the B.1 variant. The blood plasma isolated from hamsters infected with the B. variant of coronavirus efficiently neutralised the B.1 variant.

However, a six-fold reduction in the antibody neutralisation was seen in case of blood serum isolated from the B.1 mutant infected hamsters on the B. coronavirus variant. Antibody neutralisation renders the virus no longer infectious or pathogenic. The findings of increased disease severity and antibody neutralisation reduction is of great concern and point towards the need for screening the current vaccines for efficacy, the researchers noted in the paper.

The researcher said the variant has shown potential reduction in neutralisation by some monoclonal antibody treatments and reduced neutralisation by post-vaccination blood serum from some mRNA vaccines. While RNA is the genetic material of the coronavirus, messenger RNA or mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein or a part of it that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.

Over the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 has accumulated severe mutations leading to the emergence of new variants. The first SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern, B.1.1.7 was identified in late December in the UK which is now reported in more than 62 countries. The recent emergence of B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2 has caused concern in India, with some blaming the variants for the devastating second wave in the country.

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