The coronavirus variant first detected in India has now been officially recorded in 53 territories, a World Health Organization report showed 26 May 2021. The WHO has received information from unofficial sources that the B.1.617 variant has been found in seven further territories, figures in the UN health agency's weekly epidemiological update showed, taking the total number to 60.

What is B.1.617?

  1. The B.1.617 variant of SARS-CoV-2 carries two mutations, E484Q and L452R.
  2. Both are separately found in many other coronavirus variants, but they have been reported together for the first time in India.
  3. The two mutations are found in the virus’s spike protein.
  4. The spike protein helps the virus to bind itself to the human cell’s receptors and gain entry into a host cell.
  5. The E484Q mutation is similar to E484K, a mutation found in the United Kingdom (lineage B.1.1.7) and South Africa (B.1.351) variants of the coronavirus.
  6. The L452R mutation has been found in fast spreading variants in California (B.1.427 and B.1.429).
  7. It can increase the binding power of spike proteins with ACE2 receptors on human cells, making it more transmissible.
  8. L452R can also potentially enhance viral replication. Together, E484Q and L452R are more infectious, and can evade antibodies.