The nCoV B.1.617 variant was first discovered in India at the end of 2020. To date, it has spread to dozens of other countries such as the US, Singapore, UK… and Vietnam.

Scientists are urgently learning about these variants, mainly around the speed of spread, the ability to evade immunity and cause severe disease.

Transmits faster

Julian Tang, a virologist at Leicester Royal Infirmary, UK, said: `I look at individual mutations because they have unique properties, which can make the virus transmit faster.`

Researchers think B.1.617.2 is gradually replacing the B.1.1.7 variant discovered in the UK in late 2020. said Tom Wenseleers, a biologist at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium.

In a report dated May 12, the British government’s scientific team said the Indian variant can be transmitted 50% faster than the British variant.

The bodies of Covid-19 patients were lined up outside a crematorium in New Delhi at the end of April. Photo:AFP.

The ability of the variant to evade immunity is unclear

What scientists are interested in is whether the vaccine can protect against the B.1.617 variants.

In theory, the rapid spread of B.1.617.2 in the UK – where more than 50% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine – suggests the variant could evade vaccine-induced immunity.

However, in reality, according to Wenseleers, there is little evidence to suggest this.

Preliminary data in Bolton, a Covid-19 hotspot in Northwest England, shows that most people hospitalized with the B.1.617.2 variant have not been vaccinated.

Separate data analyzed by Wenseleers shows that B.1.617.2 cases in North West England were initially mainly among teenagers, a group that is not routinely vaccinated.

Some studies indicate that B.1.617.1 may reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

The model predicts the spread

Researchers still don’t have enough evidence to determine exactly how transmissible the Indian strain is compared to other variants.

In addition, if vaccinated people are still infected with the Indian variant, whether they are likely to become seriously ill or transmit the virus to others is also important to answer.

According to Ms. Peacock, collecting data on the current outbreak in the UK will help answer those questions, while also forecasting the potential impact of Indian variants in other countries, especially developing countries.

In Vietnam, during the ongoing 4th wave of Covid-19, many patients are infected with the B.1.617.2 variant from India.