SARS-CoV-2 variant from India characterized as ‘variant of concern’

May 12, 2021

In consultation with the World Health Organization (WHO) SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution Working Group, the WHO has determined that viruses within the lineage B.1.617, which first appeared in India, are a variant of concern, according to the WHO’s weekly epidemiological update.

As of 11 May, over 4,500 sequences have been uploaded to GISAID, a global virus data-sharing initiative, and assigned to B.1.617 from 44 countries in all six WHO regions, and the WHO said it has received reports of cases from five additional countries.

Outside of India, the United Kingdom has reported the largest number of cases sequenced as B.1.617 sub-lineages, and recently designated B.1.617.2 as a national variant of concern, according to the WHO.

The WHO said it has designated B.1.617 as a variant of concern for the following reasons:

• B.1.617 sub-lineages appear to have higher rates of transmission, including observed rapid increases in prevalence in multiple countries (moderate evidence available for B.1.617.1 and B.1.617.2).

• Preliminary evidence suggests potential reduced effectiveness of Bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody used for COVID-19 treatment, and potentially slightly reduced susceptibility to neutralization antibodies (limited evidence available for B.1.617.1).

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