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A ‘double mutant’ COVID-19 variant has been found in India. Here’s what that means

India has found a new ‘double variant’ version of COVID-19 in 18 different states within the country

SHARE A ‘double mutant’ COVID-19 variant has been found in India. Here’s what that means
SARS-CoV-2 virus particles that cause COVID-19.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles that cause COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab.

NIAID-RML via Associated Press

India’s Health Ministry has released a new report that reveals a new “double mutant” COVID-19 variant that has already started to spread across the country.

  • A double mutation variant is “two mutations coming together in the same virus,” virologist Shahid Jameel told BBC News.

What’s going on?

India’s government said it collected samples from COVID-19 testing that showed “an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations” compared to December 2020, according to BBC News.

  • The government said those variants had been found in 15% to 20% of all collected samples.
  • The L452R mutation originally emerged in California and has been seen in the two COVID-19 variants in that state.
  • The E484Q mutation has been reported in 11 different countries.

However, India said the new “double mutant” hasn’t led to an increase in cases yet.

  • “Though (variants of concern) and a new double mutant variant have been found in India, these have not been detected in numbers sufficient to either establish or direct relationship or explain the rapid increase in cases in some states. Genomic sequencing and epidemiological studies are continuing to further analyze the situation,” according to the healthy ministry.

Why it matters

Jameel, the virologist, told BBC News that a “double mutant” might make key changes to the virus that will allow it to evade vaccines.

  • “A double mutation in the key areas of the virus’s spike protein may increase these risks and allow the virus to escape the immune system and make it more infectious,” he added.