A new coronavirus strain has been detected in India, the nation’s health ministry announced on Wednesday, but officials have not yet determined if the variant is contributing to a surge of cases in the country.
An analysis of samples from the Maharashtra state found that there was an increase in the percentage of samples with two specific mutations, the health ministry wrote. The mutations that showed up in approximately 15 to 20 percent of the samples tested did not match any previously catalogued variants, it noted.
According to The Associated Press, the state accounts for more than 60 percent of all active cases in India.
The new variant has two mutations in the spiky protein, which the virus uses to secure itself to cells, said Dr. Rakesh Mishra, the director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in India, one of the 10 research institutes sequencing the virus, according to the AP.
Mishra added that these genetic differences could be of concern because they may help increase infectivity and help the virus escape the immune system.
In addition to the new variant, sequencing in India also detected the United Kingdom, South African and Brazilian strains, the health ministry said. The most widespread in the country was the U.K. variant, it added.
Health officials and experts, however, urged people not to link the variants with the surge in infections in India, the AP noted.
According to data from the World Health Organization, coronavirus cases in India began to rise in February, after falling for several months. On Tuesday, the country reported 40,715 confirmed cases and 275 deaths, according to the WHO.
Health officials are now worried about the upcoming spring festivals in India, the AP reported. The government has urged states to impose restrictions, but many celebrants have ignored the distancing and virus protocols, the news service noted.
The Hill reached out to the World Health Organization for comment.
New coronavirus strain detected in India | TheHill – The Hill