Karan Thapar and Shahid Jameel. Photo: The Wire
In a 43-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, professor Shahid Jameel, who is also the director of the Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, explained the two mutations that make up the double mutant variant found in Maharashtra. He said one (M452R) is similar to a mutant first found in minks in Denmark and then amongst humans in California and it’s a more infectious strain. The other (E484Q) has similarities to the variants found in South Africa and Brazil and it’s more resistant not just to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate – distributed as Covishield in India – but also to the Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccine candidates.
He said this double mutant variant is fueling the rise in cases in Maharashtra, predicting that the situation could get a lot worse. For the past few weeks, daily new cases reported in India have risen very sharply, with the country reporting close to 90,000 cases on Saturday morning. Active cases have also been rising for the past 24 days.