Karan Thapar in conversation with Ravindra Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases.
One of Cambridge University’s most highly regarded scientists working on the B.1.617.2 strain has said it is hard to precisely assess how much more transmissible this strain is compared to B.1.1.7, the variant first reported from the UK. Ravindra Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said it could be 20%, 30% or 50% more transmissible. Last week, the official British advisory group SAGE said there was a “realistic possibility” B.1.617.2 could be as much as “50% more transmissible”.
In an interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Gupta also spoke about B.1.617.2 in relation to whether it’s more resistant to vaccines. “I believe it is less sensitive to vaccines.” However, he made a point to clarify its “not fully resistant” and added that it can infect people who have been vaccinated. He said he’s working on a specific study to see if B.1.617.2 is less sensitive to the AstraZeneca vaccine, called Covishield in India. This will be a laboratory-based in vitro study and not with actual patients. He expects it to be completed in two or three weeks.
Gupta also spoke about the recent Indian government advisory stating aerosol particles can carry the infection up to 10 metres, advising people to frequently clean surfaces with bleach and to double mask. Gupta, however, does not believe double masking is necessary and seems to suggest cleaning surfaces, which is difficult to do regularly, is not as important as maintaining social distance and wearing a single mask.