Gamma: All you need to know about COVID-19 variant detected in Brazil

The Gamma variant has been detected in small quantities in Russia, the Interfax news agency cited the developer behind Russia's EpiVacCorona vaccine as saying on Thursday.

The variant of the novel coronavirus, first found in Brazil in January 2021.

"The Delta variant is widespread on the territory of the Russian Federation, with isolated cases of the Gamma variant detected," Interfax cited the institute as saying as per a report.

The institute said the Delta and Gamma variants were categorised as "causing concern" because they spread more easily and can reduce the effectiveness of antibodies.

On Thursday, Russia reported 24,471 new Covid-19 cases and 796 deaths related to coronavirus in the last 24 hours.

What is Gamma variant and where was it found?

Gamma (P.1), first identified in Brazil but which has spread to more than 10 other countries, including the UK.

Gamma variant, also known as lineage P.1, is one of the variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been named lineage P.1 and has 17 amino acid substitutions, ten of which are in its spike protein, including these three designated to be of particular concern: N501Y, E484K and K417T. This variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first detected by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases (NIID), Japan, on 6 January 2021 in four people who had arrived in Tokyo having visited Amazonas, Brazil, four days earlier. It was subsequently declared to be in circulation in Brazil. Under the simplified naming scheme proposed by the World Health Organization, P.1 has been labeled Gamma variant, and is considered a variant of concern.

Gamma caused widespread infection in early 2021 in the city of Manaus, the capital of Amazonas, although the city had already experienced widespread infection, in May 2020, with a study, indicating high seroprevalence of antibodies for SARS-CoV-2. A research article published in Science Journal indicate that P.1 diseased people has greater chance of transmissibility and death than B.1.1.28 infected.

Variant Gamma comprises the two distinct subvariants 28-AM-1 and 28-AM-2, which both carry the K417T, E484K, N501Y mutations, and which both developed independently of each other within the same Brazilian Amazonas region.

Gamma is notably different from the Zeta variant (lineage P.2) which is also circulating strongly in Brazil. In particular, Zeta only carries the E484K mutation and has neither of the other two mutations of concern, N501Y and K417T.

What is Variant of Concern?

Gamma variant has been classified as Variant of Concern (VOC)
A SARS-CoV-2 variant that meets the definition of a VOI (see below) and, through a comparative assessment, has been demonstrated to be associated with one or more of the following changes at a degree of global public health significance:

  • Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; OR

  • Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; OR

  • Decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.

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