N440K: South India's new COVID-19 variant is highly infectious, 15 times more lethal
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As fear for the COVID-19 does not seem to settle yet in India, a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 - 'N440K' has been discovered in several parts of the country and if reports are to be believed the variant is at least 15 times more lethal than the earlier ones. They said it may even be stronger than the Indian variants of B1.617 and B1.618. Several variants of COVID-19 have been emerging across the globe, continuing to threaten efforts to curb the spread of virus in the world.

The variants with N440K spike substitution have been detected in several parts of India, which has been hit by the second wave of the pandemic. Scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) discovered the new coronavirus variant N440K.

Although the variant was indeed a mutation of concern in Southern India during and after the first wave, current data shows that it is slowly being replaced by new variants of concerns (VoCs) such as B.1.617 (dubbed a double-mutant variant) and B.1.1.7 (variant identified in the UK).

As far as Maharashtra is concerned, researchers found that the increase of B.1.617 variant was in February rather than in March 2021, and again a reduction in the proportion of lineages with N440K was observed.

According to Divya Tej Sowpati of CCMB, "in Maharashtra, the second wave started almost a month and half earlier compared to the four southern states. "Speaking about Kerala he said, "though not much data is available on GISAID for the state, we can see from genescov2.genomes.in that B.1.1.7 is increasing at present, whereas N440K is present in less than 20 per cent of the genomes."

Earlier, it was found by the scientisst at CCMB that the N440K variant produced ten times higher infectious viral titers than a prevalent A2a strain, and over 1,000 folds higher titers than a much less prevalent A3i strain prototype in Caco2 cells.

India on Tuesday recorded a grim milestone with the COVID19 case tally soaring past the 20 million mark. Recently cases have dropped marginally, with 3,57,229 people testing positive in the last 24 hours. At the same time, there were 3,20,289 discharges and 3,449 deaths recorded.

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