Very few recombinant variants discovered in India: INSACOG

The country’s Covid-19 genomic sequencing consortium, INSACOG, has said in its bulletin that “very few recombinant variants have been discovered in India”.

Released after a gap of three months, the bulletin states that none of these recombinant variants sequenced so far have led to increased transmission or severe disease and hospitalisation.

“Incidences of suspected recombinants and possible public health relevance are being closely monitored,” the bulletin stated. The consortium has so far sequenced 2.4 lakh sequences from across the country.

An official from the consortium, on condition of anonymity, said, “Even if there are a few of XE, how does it matter unless it spreads faster or causes severe disease and death? Most of these variants are too similar to Omicron, which a huge proportion of our population has already been exposed to. So it is unlikely to cause a surge.”

XE is thought to be 22% to 27% more transmissible than one of its parents, the fast-spreading BA2 variant.

At present, the world and India is on the lookout for two recombinant variants — XD and XE. A recombinant variant is created when parts of the genetic material of a variant combined with material from another variant. XD is a variant that has Omicron’s S gene incorporated in the Delta variant’s sequence. XE is a recombination of BA1 and BA2 sub-variants of the Omicron variant.

Last week, officials from Delhi government had reported spotting a sub-variant of Omicron BA2 identified as BA2.12.1 that was first reported from New York. This hasn’t been confirmed by INSACOG yet.

“All INSACOG labs are taking a look at their sequences now to see whether there have been cases of BA2.12.1 reported. So far we haven’t been able to confirm it,” a second INSACOG investigator said. Even if confirmed, it is not a recombinant variant; it is simply a mutated form of Omicron BA2.

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