A new and potentially troublesome variant of the coronavirus has been detected in India, health officials said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
Health Ministry officials and experts, however, cautioned against linking the variant with an ongoing surge in new infections in India.
Cases in India had been plummeting since September and life was returning to normal, but cases began spiking last month and more than 47,000 new infections were detected in the past 24 hours, along with 275 deaths — the highest one-day death toll in more than four months.
The three variants first detected in South Africa, Britain and Brazil are considered the most worrisome and have been designated “variants of concern.”
The new variant found in India has two mutations in the spiky protein that the virus uses to fasten itself to cells, said Dr. Rakesh Mishra, the director of the Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, one of the 10 research institutes sequencing the virus.
The Health Ministry said in a statement quoted by AP that the variant was found in 15%-20% of the samples sequenced from Maharashtra state. The state, which is home to India’s financial capital, has been worst hit by the recent surge and accounts for over 60% of all active cases in India.