By Audrey Lotechukwu
WED 12 MAY, 2021-theGBJournal- The COVID-19 variant B.1.617 said to be behind the deadly explosive outbreak in India has been found in 44 countries in all six regions of the World Health Organisation (WHO). In its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic, WHO said Tuesday that it has also received reports of detection from five additional countries.
Viruses in the B.1.617 lineage were first reported in India in October 2020, and according to WHO, India continues to account for 95% of cases and 93% of deaths in the South-East Asia Region, as well as 50% of global cases and 30% of global deaths. Worrying trends have been observed in neighbouring countries.
‘’B.1.617 sublineages appear to have higher rates of transmission, including observed rapid increases in prevalence in multiple countries (moderate evidence available for B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2),’’ WHO said.
WHO said the resurgence in COVID-19 cases and deaths in India has raised questions on the potential role of B.1.617 and other variants (e.g., B.1.1.7) in circulation.
A recent risk assessment of the situation in India conducted by WHO found that resurgence and acceleration of COVID-19 transmission in India had several potential contributing factors, including increase in the proportion of cases of SARS-CoV-2 variants with potentially increased transmissibility; several religious and political mass gathering events which increased social mixing; and, under use of and reduced adherence to public health and social measures (PHSM).
‘’The exact contributions of these each of these factors on increased transmission in India are not well understood,’’ WHO noted in the epidemiological update.
Potential impacts of B.1.617 lineage on effectiveness of vaccines or therapeutics, or reinfection risks, remain uncertain. Preliminary laboratory studies awaiting peer review suggest a limited reduction in neutralisation by antibodies; however, real-world impacts may be limited.
Outside of India, the United Kingdom has reported the largest number of cases sequenced as B.1.617 sublineages, and recently designated B.1.617.2 as a national variant of concern.
Meanwhile, Nigeria is not among countries, territories and areas reporting the B.1.617.1, B.1.617.2 or B.1.617.3 sequences uploaded to GISAID and/or reported to WHO as of 11 May 2021.