India It has reported a new type of coronavirus as it grapples with its highest in a single day of new infections and deaths this year.
The variant, which officials described as a “double mutant”, was found in more than 200 samples in the worst-hit western state of Maharashtra, which includes Mumbai, India’s financial capital.
Health officials said the new variable had not been detected in large enough numbers to link it to the increase in cases in Maharashtra and other states including Kerala and Punjab.
Epidemiologists have said that the term “double mutant” refers to a new variant with characteristics of two variables that have already been identified.
“Dual mutant is not a scientific term. It’s just another mutation that looks unique to India,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, founder of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Politics in New Delhi.
“Is there a reason to be concerned about this particular alternative? Not yet, because we do not have evidence that these variants are more transmissible or lethal than we already have.”
About 20% of samples containing the new substitute in Maharashtra were found in Nagpur, a major commercial and logistical center, Sujit Kumar Singh, director of the National Center for Disease Control, said at a press conference.
An alternative is developing, Singh said, adding that nine such samples have also been found in New Delhi, which has seen a steady rise in infections over the past few weeks.
Health officials said the two vaccines approved in India – one developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, the other one by Bharat Biotech – are effective against types of the virus first identified in Britain and Brazil.
On Wednesday, India reported 47,262 new infections over the previous 24-hour period, the highest level since early November, bringing the total number of infections to 11.7 million. Only the United States and Brazil have more cases.
Government data showed that the number of deaths in the past 24 hours rose to 275, the largest number this year, bringing the total number to 160,441.
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