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WHO classifies India Covid strain as ‘variant of concern’

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    17th May, 2021

The B-1617 variant of coronavirus has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).


The B-1617 variant of coronavirus has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organisation (WHO).


Key points about the B-1617 variant

  • First in India: The B-1617 variant of coronavirus was identified in India.

  • Dispersal: This variant is able to spread more easily than earlier forms of the virus.

  • Mutation: It carries a mutation called L452R that affects the virus’s spike protein.

    • The L452R mutation changes the part of the spike protein which directly interacts with ACE2.

    • The ACE2 molecule is found on the surface of our cells that the virus binds with to get inside.

    • It is estimated to be around 20% more transmissible than the earlier form of the coronavirus.

  • Vaccine inefficiency: The vast majority of vaccines are based on targeting the spike protein.

    • The protein is on the outer surface of the virus and its change makes every time hard for the immune system to detect it.

How the Variants are classified?

Classification of Variants

In collaboration with a SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group (SIG), the CDC established 3 classifications for the SARS-CoV-2 variants:

Variant of Interest (VOI)

  • It is a variant with specific genetic markers that have been associated with changes to receptor binding, reduced neutralization by antibodies generated against previous infection or vaccination, reduced efficacy of treatments, potential diagnostic impact, or predicted increase in transmissibility or disease severity.

Variant of Concern (VOC)

  • A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g.,  increased hospitalizations or deaths), significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures.

  • These variants spread more easily and quickly than other variants, which leads to more cases of COVID-19.

Variant of High Consequence (VOHC)

  • A variant of high consequence has clear evidence that prevention measures or medical countermeasures (MCMs) have significantly reduced effectiveness relative to previously circulating variants.

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