The World Health Organization said Wednesday that a variant of Covid-19 behind the acceleration of India’s explosive outbreak has been found in dozens of countries all over the world.
The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, first found in India in October, had been detected in sequences uploaded to the GISAID open-access database “from 44 countries in all six WHO regions,” adding it had received “reports of detections from five additional countries”.
Earlier this week, the WHO declared B.1.617 — which counts three so-called sub-lineages with slightly different mutations and characteristics — as a “variant of concern”. It was therefore added to the list containing three other variants of Covid-19 those first detected in Britain, Brazil and South Africa.
The variants are seen as more dangerous than the original version of the virus because they are either being more transmissible, deadly or able to get past some vaccine protections. The WHO explained Wednesday that B.1.617 was added to the list because it appears to be transmitting more easily than the original virus, pointing to the “rapid increases in prevalence in multiple countries”. WHO also pointed to “preliminary evidence” that the variant was more resistant to treatment with the monoclonal antibody Bamlanivimab, and also highlighted early lab studies indicating “limited reduction in neutralisation by antibodies”.