Chandrababu Naidu booked for 'wrong reporting' on N440K COVID variant

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  7 May 2021 3:00 PM GMT
Chandrababu Naidu booked for wrong reporting on N440K COVID variant

Kurnool : The Andhra Pradesh police have booked a criminal case against former Chief Minister and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu for 'wrong reporting' on corona cases in the state.

The cops who were acting on electronic evidence, booked Naidu under sections 500, 505 (1) B 505 (2) r/w 34 Indian Penal Code, 54 Disaster Management Act -2005.

According to complainant M. Subbaiah, "Opposition leader Chandrababu Naidu and others are reporting incorrectly on the coronavirus variant N440K, citing it has a capacity of spreading 15 times faster than the other variants. The same was spoken in few media channels resulting in creating a panic. "The false propaganda and wrong interpretation by Chandrababu Naidu has triggered a nationwide debate on the N440K variant which made the other states to impose new restrictions on the people from Andhra Pradesh. This is an irreparable embarrassment and humiliation to the people, the complainant said.

In this regard, the Andhra Pradesh government has clarified that there is no data to suggest that N440K is a variant of interest and is very virulent. On 6 May, the government issued a clarification stating that N440K strain of coronavirus (B.1.36) was detected in June-July last year from samples collected from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Telangana.

"This strain was prevalent in December 2020 and January and February 2021 and dropped down drastically in March and now the share of N440K among the positives is very minimal," it added.

Two major strains of the virus - B.1.617 and B.1 - were identified from the samples taken from the three states, according to April data. They are highly infectious and are also spreading among the younger age groups, the notice stated.

It further clarified that the COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update of 25 April issued by WHO mentioned B.1.617 as a variant of interest from India but did not mention N440K. "If this variant is of such public health concern as reported in certain sections of media, it should have by now found place WHO reports as well as ICMR reports," it added.

The notice further said that just because N440K variant is shown to be efficient in cell culture system in experimental conditions, it does not mean it will behave the same way in humans or in a complicated pandemic scenario.

What is a double mutant?

B.1.617 (double mutant) was first sampled in early October 2020 in Maharashtra. This lineage is characterized by about 15 mutations all over its genome. 6 out of the 15 mutations are present in its Spike protein, out of which two mutations, in particular, were of interest: L452R and E484Q. These were of interest because L452R was seen in a variant circulating in California, and was shown to increase the infectivity of the virus, and E484Q was shown in vitro experiments to be an immune escape mutation (possesses the ability to bypass host immunity, either acquired by previous SARS-CoV-2 infection or conferred by vaccination). Because these two mutations were repeatedly mentioned when talking about this lineage, the colloquial name of double mutant came about.

What's the "triple mutant"?

The strain which various news articles and others are referring to as "triple mutant" is a sub-lineage of B.1.617, with an extra mutation in its Spike protein: V382L. The mutation V382L has previously been reported in the US as a low-frequency mutation with possible immune escape properties as seen in vitro assays. There is no conclusive evidence at this point that associates any of these lineages with a more severe or lethal outcome of COVID19.

Since their footprints are increasing, it is reasonable to think that these are more efficient in spreading. We have seen that B.1.617 is not resistant to a vaccine or prior infection mediates the immune response.

Which mutant has hit India in second wave?

Unlike northern India where the UK variant is responsible for a high percentage of COVID cases during the COVID Second wave, South India has a different story. The B.1.617 variant known as the 'double mutant' is prominent in Maharashtra and now making headway in Karnataka.

However, what is of concern currently is that the variants spreading in larger parts of the country. The Triple mutant is currently limited to Maharashtra and scientists need more data to conduct genome sequencing to understand the nature of the mutant.

The N440K variant has found be to more dominant in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala. Is the RTPCR test unable to detect the new variants resulting in false-negative reports?

It is pertinent to note that thousands of cases reported in the recent are results from the RTPCR test. None of the variants can evade its presence, although it is important to know that sensitivity of RT-PCR tests is 70-80%. In certain cases based on the viral load, it may not be detected however it is in the majority of the cases it has. False-negative is expected in few tests among hundreds.

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