Infectious disease doc: COVID variant found in India could be more transmissible

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 12 2021 09:19 AM

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MANILA—The coronavirus variant spotted in India that's sweeping the South Asian nation could spread more easily, an infectious disease specialist warned Wednesday.

"Based on reports coming out of India, it's the predominant isolate that they have right now. Also, it seems to be that they are documenting increased transmissibility with this particular variant, which is perhaps why the WHO (World Health Organization) has included it as one of the variants of global concern," Dr. Anna Ong-Lim told ANC.

The Philippines on Tuesday confirmed its first 2 cases of the variant, named B.1.617, from 2 Filipino seafarers who returned in April.

The UN health agency also tagged the mutation as being of global concern, with some preliminary studies showing that it transmits more easily.

Lim, who is part of the technical working group that advises the Department of Health, also said the variant had been called "double mutant" because of the presence of 2 notable mutations in the spike protein of the virus. 

The mutations are said to allow the virus to easily gain entry into the human body and multiply faster. B.1.617 has several mutations, including the E484Q and L452R. 

The first notable mutation, E484Q, which is similar to E484K (called Eek) has been dubbed an "escape mutation" as it helps the virus get past the body's immune system.

L452R was found by a Californian study to be an efficient spreader.

"What we're hoping really is to prevent further spread because you can imagine if you have several different variants going around then it's entirely possible that more will arise and cause even more problems," Lim said.

The Philippines has detected cases of variants identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa. The UK variant is present in 12 regions, while the South African variant has been detected in 15 regions, the DOH earlier said.

"What this calls for is really more consistent compliance and perhaps continued vigilance from our government leaders, [and] community leaders in enforcing the minimum public health standards," Lim said.