The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is spearheading the genome surveillance of the Sars-Cov-2 virus in Mumbai and is analysing a set of 370 sequences for the fourth time to see if they fall under the classification of the AY.4.2 variant.
Moreover, the sub-lineage accounts for “below 0.1%” of cases so far, said the latest update posted by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) monitoring the emergence of new variants. Meanwhile, AY.4.2 is considered to be the cause for the sudden surge in cases in Europe, especially the UK, but it hasn’t yet been associated with more severe Covid or deaths.
Additional Municipal Commissioner, Suresh Kakani said, the main reason for conducting genome sequences is to confirm that there is no subtype of Delta variant in the city which can be more infectious. Meanwhile, they have asked for the list of international travellers who have come from the counties or states where the A.Y.4.2 variant has been found.
“This time we have taken samples of International travellers to check the AY.4.2 variant. We need to be clear about the new Delta sub-lineages before Diwali. Moreover, so far in the last three genome sequence reports, we haven’t found any new mutants so we are hoping for the same this time,” he said.
One of the state covid-19 task force members said Delta and its derivatives have posed a challenge to the medical community for months.
“India is still in the Delta mode. As long as the Delta variant is still dominant, it is unlikely that any of the derivatives such as AY.4.2 will pose a big threat to India,” he said.
Recent studies have shown that the Oxford vaccine, sold as Covidshield in India, is effective against Delta. The third genomic sequencing report of the BMC in Mumbai showed that while breakthrough infections (getting Covid despite vaccination) have been noted, the vaccine has resulted in a lower number of hospitalisations, disease severity and deaths.
Senior Health experts said a mutation is a result of the virus making an error during multiplication/reproduction, which causes changes in its genetic code. A mutation could be more infective and cause more deaths compared to the original virus.
Head of Department, Emergency Medicine, Wockhardt Hospitals, Dr Santosh Bansode said, “A fully vaccinated person will mostly get mild symptoms from AY.4.2, but if he/she transfers this infection to an unvaccinated person, that person may suffer serious symptoms. If such a new variant starts spreading in our country and city, we will face huge stress on our healthcare system.”
“Now we are unlocking everything slowly and we can see people are getting very casual and not wearing masks properly in public places. This behaviour will cause deep trouble if such a variant enters our community. We must keep educating people about new variants and problems they cause all over the world and encouraging them to take adequate precautions,” he said.
He wants people to look out for fever, cough, a runny nose, shortness of breath, unusual tiredness, headache, generalised weakness and body pain. The new variant causes similar effects on all body organs as older variants. Dr Bansode said, in severely symptomatic patients the tendency to form clots in vessels increases and this can affect the lungs, heart, brain, etc.
“There is no need to panic. Health authorities are investigating the characteristics of the new variant. Until further details are available, Covid appropriate behaviour accompanied by complete vaccination continues to be the mainstay of protection especially during the festive season,” explained professor of surgery at DY Patil Medical College Dr Ketan Vagholkar.
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