Amidst a deep crisis in India, the World Health Organization announced Monday that it has identified variant B.1.617, which is becoming more and more common in the country, as a A variant of anxiety. Scientists still don’t know much about the variable yet, but they are concerned that it may help increase the number of coronavirus infections in the country, which experts say is likely to be underestimated.
“There is an increase in transmissibility that some initial studies have shown” of the variable, said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for the WHO response to the Coronavirus.
Dr. Van Kerkhove also said that a study of a limited number of patients, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggested that antibodies from vaccines or infection with other variants It may not be completely effective against B.1.617. However, the agency said that vaccines will likely still be strong enough to provide protection against B.1.617.
Dr. Van Kerkhove said more details would be announced in a report on Tuesday.
The variant was first detected in India at the end of 2020 however It becomes more common in the country starting in March. It has since been found on 32 countries Including the United States and the United Kingdom. The WHO announcement comes as increasing numbers of medical experts add their voices to a chorus of condemnation of the Indian government’s response and calls for nationwide restrictions to try to reduce the horrific death toll.
although The official numbers are already staggering – Over 350,000 new infections per day this month and nearly 250,000 total deaths – some experts say the numbers are much lower than the number and estimate India On its way to suffer more than a million deaths By August.
Initially, the WHO classified B.1.617 as a “significant variable”, because it contains some mutations that have been linked with higher transmission and potential for vaccine evasion. At a news conference on Monday, agency officials announced that they had raised the bar to a higher level.
Other variants of concern include B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, and P.1, which was originally discovered in Brazil.
But experts warn that it is not yet clear how much B.1.617 factor has played into the catastrophic rise in cases in India. They point to a whole storm of fatal public health mistakes, such as allowing massive political rallies and religious festivals in recent months.
“I’m worried about 617 – I think we have to watch it closely,” said Christian Andersen, a virologist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California. But he cautioned that relatively few variable specimens are being analyzed in India, which makes it difficult to know just how dangerous B.1.617 is. “We really, really need better data from India,” he said.