Indian health authorities have detected a new double mutant coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant.
Officials are checking if the variant, whose two mutations come together in the same virus, is more infectious or has the potential to skip the immunity developed either by natural infection or vaccines.
In a BBC report, some 10,787 samples from 18 Indian states also showed up 771 cases of known variants – 736 of the UK, 34 of the South African variant, and one case of the Brazilian variant.
Health officials however clarified that the new variants are not related to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
“Though variants of concern (VOCs) and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish a direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states,” the health ministry said.
India reported 47,262 cases and 275 deaths on Wednesday – the sharpest daily rise in 2021 so far.
Virologist Shahid Jameel told BBC that a “double mutation in key areas of the virus’ spike protein may increase these risks and allow the virus to escape the immune system”.
The spike protein is the part of the virus that it uses to penetrate human cells.
Jameel said that a separate coronavirus lineage is also developing in India.