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What is double mutation & why it’s the latest buzzword as India sees a Covid surge

The double mutation in India is a variant carrying both the L452R and E484Q mutations. Both of these are able to evade detection by the immune system.

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Bengaluru: The Union health ministry this week confirmed the presence of a coronavirus variant in Maharashtra carrying two genetic mutations. The ministry is calling it a ‘double mutation’ as both the mutations confer notable advantages to the virus. 

The L452R mutation can escape some monoclonal antibodies, and could also potentially increase infectivity or the ability to infect a host. The E484Q mutation can also escape antibodies. Variants with either mutation are thus not effectively neutralised by plasma therapy.

A double mutation is a naturally occurring result of the virus constantly mutating — most variants end up carrying multiple mutations.

However, the novel variant is of concern as both notable mutations are immune evasive.

A total of 771 samples have tested positive for mutations or variants of concern, in over 10,000 samples as of this week. These included the UK variant, Brazil variant, the South African one, as well as the double mutation. 

As many as 206 samples in Maharashtra have tested positive for the double mutant variant that carries both L452R and the E484Q mutations. It has also been found in sequences in Delhi and Nagpur, but a corresponding surge in the number of cases has not been visible in these areas, clarified authorities. 

Also read: The coronavirus is mutating, but so are our antibodies

Pathology of new variant

It is as yet unclear how exactly the virus variant with the two mutations behaves when compared to other variants.

A mutation is when ribonucleic acid (RNA) changes occur in viruses as a result of constant multiplication induced errors, and this results in minor changes to the viral structure. 

The virus is made up of RNA, and thus when it multiplies, it can pass errors on to the new RNA code. These causes changes in how genes are expressed and this results in mutations.

For example, in the E484Q mutation, the glutamic acid (E) is replaced by glutamine (Q) at the 484th position on the virus’s spike protein, the protein through which the virus enters the human cell. This mutation has been found in multiple other variants as well, including the UK and South African variants. 

As the name suggests, a variant is genetically different from the original strain or type of virus, but not different enough to be categorised into a new strain all on its own. A variant is typically made up of one or more mutations. 

The virus constantly mutates and, due to this, some mutations might prove to be advantageous to the virus by sheer accident, and these could persist. 

Supposed advantages include increased infectivity or ability to infect a host, increased transmissibility or ability to spread between hosts, and immune evasion or the ability to hide from the body’s immune system. 

While both mutations have been noted to have immune evasive properties, detected in multiple countries, and the L452R mutation has been associated with a rapid spread of cases, there hasn’t been enough sequencing in India to effectively establish this combination of mutation as the cause behind the latest and ongoing surge in cases. 

(Edited by Debalina Dey)

Also read: Don’t blame mutant strains for Covid surge, it’s public carelessness, say top health experts


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  1. I believe that covid-19 is an outcome of the disreapect shown to the nature by humans. Therefore, only nature can save us from this if we mend our ways. Nature is not a non-living thing. As per Charles Darwin, She can select whatever supports Her. And she can make things exticnt if they go againt Her. So mending our ways (nature has produced plants for human consuption but not the insects, fish, birds and mammals. Their consuption costs way more to nature and disrupts Her processes.) towards nature is equally important. Vaccines can’t save us from the results of what we have done. First change our attitude towards nature and try to find cure through plants thats what nature has offered to us. You wont need to develop separate weapons (vaccines) for each variant. Certain phytochemicals can kill all of these and scientists know that but cannot disclose because it wont generate money for them.
    A few phytochemicals that may work on major targets are: curcumin, gylycyrrhin, bromhexine, mullberroside-a, cinnamaldehyde, resveratrol etc. Greedy corporates will first make their analogs so that they can be patented. Remember, working on it without mending our ways wont work. The epigenetic switches are in nature’s control.

    • “As per Charles Darwin, She can select whatever supports Her. And she can make things exticnt if they go againt Her. ”
      This isn’t what the theory of evolution says. This is just pseudoscience.

      “nature has produced plants for human consuption but not the insects, fish, birds and mammals.”
      Lol, wut? Plants existed billions of years before homo sapiens or any other human/homo species set foot on earth.

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