According to the WHO, a variant of the coronavirus first identified in India, is a potential world-wide threat. The variant known as B.1.617, is believed to be behind the recent outbreak in India. Other variants were previously discovered in South Africa, Brazil, and Britain.

This latest variant was discovered back in October. According to health officials, the variant can combine mutations in the protein that can aid it in avoiding the body’s immune system.

Maria Van Kerkove, who is technical lead of WHO’s coronavirus response, said Monday at a press conference, “There is some available information to suggest some increased transmissibility of B.1.617, and as such we are classifying this as a variant of concern at the global level. Even though there is increased transmissibility demonstrated by some preliminary studies, we need much more information about this virus variant in this lineage, in all of the sub lineages, so we need more sequencing, targeted sequencing to be done.”

It’s been suggested that the variant may be behind the latest surge in India, but Gagandeep Kang – who is executive director of Translational Health Service and Technology Institute in India – isn’t so sure. “There is some conflicting data regarding the B.1.1.7 variant, which seems to indicate as some studies that it does cause more severe disease, in other studies not,” he said.

It has yet to be determined whether or not B.1.617 is a cause of more severe C0VID infection. Until more research is done, it’s impossible to know for certain.

Sources: The Week, NY Times, CNBC.

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