Variants of Concern and Variants of Interest

#GS3 #Science&Technology

Context

  • The two coronavirus variants identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) recently is not found in India. 
  • This has been confirmed by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) said in its latest weekly update.

Variants of Concern and Variants of Interest

  • World Health Organisation has kept each emerging variant under the classification of Variant of Concern (VOC) and Variant of Interest (VOI). 
  • Mu has mutations that could enable it to escape or evade the protection provided by vaccines. 

What is a Variant of Concern?

  • According to the WHO, a variant of concern is the virus variant that has certain features like rise in transmissibility, increase in fatality and decrease in effectiveness of vaccines, therapy and other health measures.
  • The WHO has classified variant B.1.621 (including B.1.621.1) under its list of variants of interest (VoI) and named it “Mu”. 
  • The Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants fall under Variants of Concern. 

What is a Variant of Interest?

  • According to WHO, a VOI is a SARS CoV-2 variant with a genetic mutation that affects characteristics of the virus such as disease severity, immune escape, transmissibility and diagnostic escape. 
  • VOI can causes a consequential volume of community transmission. A global increase in cases poses a risk of large proportions to worldwide public health.
  • The Eta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda are classified under Variants of Interest.

Current Statistics on COVID-19 Variants

  • The global prevalence of the Mu variant has got reduced. Now it is below 0.1%. 
  • The WHO has included C.1.2 as a new variant of concern. C.1.2 is a sub-lineage of the C.1 variant. It is found in South Africa, but it did not spread on a large global scale.
  • Mu and C.1.2 is not found in India as of now. 

INSACOG:

  • The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) is a national multi-agency consortium of Genome Sequencing Laboratories (RGSLs) laboratories established by the govt. of India on 30th December 2020.  
  • Initially, this consortium had 10 laboratories. Subsequently, the scope of laboratories under INSACOG was expanded and at the present there are 28 laboratories under this Consortium which monitor the genomic variations in SARS-CoV-2.

Objective of INSACOG:

  • In order to completely understand the:  
  • Spread and evolution of the SARS CoV-2 virus,  
  • Its mutations and resulting Variants,  
  • The need for in-depth sequencing and analysis of the genomic data was felt. Against this backdrop, INSACOG was established to expand whole genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 virus across the state , aiding our understanding of how the virus spreads and evolves.  
  • Any changes to the genetic code, or mutations in the virus, are often observed supported the analysis and sequencing of samples done in the laboratories under INSACOG.
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