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Coronavirus mutations that could ‘evade immune response’ flagged by Indian scientists: Report

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A group of scientific advisers working for the Indian government reportedly told authorities that minor mutations have been reported in many samples of coronavirus. A leader of the group told Reuters that these mutations could “possible evade immune response” and would require further enquiry.

Even then, the group added that though mutations are being flagged by the authorities, there currently exists no reason to believe these could be dangerous or were expanding. Currently, India is witnessing the worst surge reported among any country in the world with over 400,000 new cases reported nationwide on May 1.

Scientists are attempting to understand whether the surge was caused by a variant which was first detected in the country – B.1.617. The World Health Organization so far has not declared the variant as “of concern”. It had declared mutations first emerging in Britain, Brazil, and South Africa as “variants of concern”.

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On April 27, the WHO said that its modelling based on genome sequencing suggest that the variant had a higher growth rate than any other mutations that are spreading in India.

The forum of advisers to the Indian government is known as the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium or INSACOG. The group has traced more variants in the country that it feels need to be tracked.

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“We are seeing some mutation coming up in some samples that could possibly evade immune responses,” Shahid Jameel, chair of the scientific advisory group of INSACOG told Reuters.

“Unless you culture those viruses and test them in the lab, you can’t say for sure. At this point, there is no reason to believe that they are expanding or if they can be dangerous, but we flagged it so that we keep our eye on the ball,” he further said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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