Hyderabad: Scientists at Hyderabad’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) have dismissed the claims that a distinct phylogenetic cluster of SARS-CoV-2 genomes A3i which is found to be more common among Covid-19 patients in the south- Indian states are more virulent than other viruses present in the world.

Dr. Rakesh Mishra, director of CCMB rubbished the claim as misleading and said there is no data to prove that A31 is more virulent.

“There is no data to prove that the new virus population (Clade A3i) among Indians is any more dangerous than the other virus population (Clade A2a) present here. Certainly, Clad A3i is not going to be more dangerous than other clades. We only see a possibility of it being less dangerous. But these predictions still need to be validated with clinical data. The sequence analysis ‘predicts’ one of the mutations could make the Clade A3ia weaker than Clade A2a. But we don’t have data to validate it yet,” he said.

A study  conducted by a group of researchers has revealed that a distinct phylogenetic cluster `Clade I or A3i of SARS-CoV-2 genomes’ that is unique to the region, was found among 41 percent of the Covid-19 cases in India.

Entitled `A distinct phylogenetic cluster of Indian SARS-CoV-2 isolates, the study was conducted  by researchers from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), and CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB), Delhi.

“While the study is yet to identify any implication of this unique genome cluster on the severity of Covid-19 disease, more data needs to be analyzed to reach a proper conclusion. More samples need to be collected, and more genome sequencing is underway,” said Dr. Rakesh Mishra.

The study said this genome is found predominantly in the South-Asian region, while it is mostly absent in regions such as Europe or the United States, the researchers said.

Dr. Mishra specified that the presence of this unique genome cluster is more dominant in south-Indian states such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

 “While samples could not be collected from Karnataka or Kerala, the presence in the south is more prominent than in other states which were studied, including Maharashtra and Gujarat,” he said.

The study further suggests that this cluster may have originated from an outbreak in February 2020, and spread through India. This consists of 41 percent of all SARS-CoV2 genomes from Indian samples, and 3.5 percent of global genomes submitted in the public domain.

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