India's task force on COVID-19 prepares strategy to detect new variant found in UK
New Delhi/IBNS: The National Task Force (NTF) on COVID-19 met on Saturday to discuss evidence-based modifications in testing, treatment and surveillance strategies for SARS-CoV-2 in view of the recent reports of emergence of the new variant strain of the virus from the UK.
The variant strain has 14 non-synonymous (amino acid altering) mutations, 6 synonymous (non amino-acid altering), and 3 deletions.
Eight mutations are present in the Spike (S) gene which carries the binding site (Receptor Binding Domain) of the ACE2 receptors, which are the point of entry of the virus into the human respiratory cells.
The National Task Force deliberated in detail on aspects related to current National Treatment Protocol, testing strategy and surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 vis-à-vis the UK variant strain.
It was emphasized that since the UK variant strain is implicated to cause increased transmissibility of the virus, it is critical to identify individuals infected with this strain and adequately contain them to prevent its transmission in India.
The NTF concluded that there is no need to change the existing treatment protocol in view of mutations emerging in the strain.
Further, since ICMR has always advocated use of two or more gene assays for testing SARS-CoV-2, it is unlikely to miss infected cases using the current testing strategy.
NTF recommended that in addition to the existing surveillance strategies, it is critical to conduct enhanced genomic surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 especially in incoming passengers from the UK.
Besides, it will also be critical to conduct genome sequencing in samples where there is a dropout of the S gene in lab diagnosis, proven cases of re-infections etc. Routine genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 from representative samples all across the samples needs to be a continuous and well planned activity.
The NCDC informed that Government of India has taken cognizance of the reports of the mutant variant of SARS-CoV-2 reported from the UK and the response of other Countries to these reports.
"The situation is being monitored proactively. A strategy has been put under place to detect & contain the mutant variant," a government statement said.
The new coronavirus variant, which infects more easily but does not appear to be more deadly or pose any concerns for vaccines, has already been detected in several countries, including Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa and Australia.