Out of a total of 361 coronavirus samples collected between January and March this year in Maharashtra, about 61 percent were found to have a double mutant,  B.1.617,  reveals a genome sequencing expert while also questioning the method of collecting samples. These testing samples were sent to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune for testing and out of 361 samples taken from Maharashtra over a period of three months, mutations like E484Q and L452R were found in 220 samples. On March 24, the central government had said that double mutations were found in 15-20 per cent of the samples in Maharashtra without associating this variant with the second wave. New Double Mutant COVID-19 Variant Found in India, Several 'Variants of Concern' Found in 18 States, Says Health Ministry.

Maharashtra is the worst afflicted state in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic. Around 60 thousand new cases are being filed every day while the maximum number of deaths also happening in Maharashtra. The double mutant B.1.617 is said to be causing the cases to spread rapidly. Although, so far there hasn't been any scientific evidence to back the claim that the spike in Maharashtra's coronavirus cases is definitely due to double mutation. A lot is yet to be known about India's COVID-19 Double Mutant B.1.617. Here are some of the things that are known:

What is the B.1.617?

The Indian variant of SARS-CoV-2, B.1.617 is said to carry two mutations, E484Q and L452R. While both are separately found in many other coronavirus variants, they have been reported together for the first time in India. Of greater concern is the fact that when combined, these two mutations are more contagious and dangerous, as they have a higher ability to remove antibodies from the human body. The two mutations are found in the virus’s spike protein. The spike protein helps the virus to bind itself to the human cell’s receptors and gain entry into a host cell.

Areas In India That Has Reported B.1.617 So Far

The B.1.617 was first reported in Maharashtra when in January, 19 samples from various districts were sequenced, and B.1.617 was found in four. Places in Maharashtra such as Amravati, Nagpur, Akola, Wardha, Pune, Thane, Aurangabad, and Chandrapur districts have witnessed strong evidence of the presence of B.1.617. While sequencing is pending for more samples, COVID-19 in India also saw 9 samples of UK mutant strain, 4 double mutant found in Jharkhand. 

How dangerous is double mutant B.1.617

The double variant is believed to be more dangerous, which is likely to cause more damage, with most patients showing better results with treatment in isolation. This variant is more contagious and can infect many people simultaneously because it spreads rapidly in a group or within a family. However, no evidence has been found about the intensity of it being worse than the one before. It is being said that the new variant may also contain some new symptoms of coronavirus.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Apr 16, 2021 10:20 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).