The new variant is likely to cause severe symptoms. The findings of the pathogenicity evaluation show increased disease severity and point towards the need for screening of vaccine efficacy. The findings of the pre-print study has been published online on bioRxiv.
However, according to an uncorrected manuscript of a separate study by NIV, Pune, the two-dose Covaxin regimen significantly boosted antibody and neutralising efficacy against the variant.
The B.188.8.131.52 variant induced body weight loss, viral replication in the respiratory tract, lung lesions and caused severe lung pathology in infected Syrian hamster model, the study said.
The study pointed towards the necessity of genomic surveillance and characterisation of SARS-CoV-2 variants to understand their pathogenicity and immune escape potential for preparedness of counter measures.
Genome sequencing labs are looking at mutants which have significant potential of severely affecting disease transmission. Currently,10 national labs under INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genome Sequencing Consortia) have sequenced around 30,000 samples. The government plans to ramp up genome sequencing and recently added 18 more labs to the consortium.