The deadly SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus continues to outsmart science and experts with even more transmissible variants. Amid increasing cases of Delta plus variant in India, the country has now reported two cases of the Kappa variant of the Covid-19. After genome sequencing of 109 samples of the virus was completed in Lucknow’s King George’s medical college in Uttar Pradesh, it was found that 107 of the samples were of the Delta Plus variant, whereas two were of the Kappa variant.
While the Delta variant has been widely discussed because it is now the dominant strain in circulation in the Indian population, the Kappa variant has not been talked about much. But that is only because it used to be known by a different name earlier. The World Health Organisation (WHO) gave it the name Kappa only a few weeks ago. By now, its presence in the Indian population has decreased.
Kappa variant, also known as the B.1.617.1, is a double mutant variation as it has the E484Q and the L453R mutations. It is not a new variant of the coronavirus, according to experts, it has been around for a while.
When did the Kappa variant first appear?
Kappa variant was first detected in India in October of 2020 and was deemed as a ‘variant of interest’ by the WHO, which is unlike the Delta variant responsible for the second wave of infections in India, as WHO deemed that as a ‘variant of concern’.
Cause for concern?
The Kappa variant of Covid-19 found in Uttar Pradesh is not a cause for concern according to authorities, as such mutations and variations are expected from the virus.
According to the additional chief secretary (health), Amit Mohan Prasad, there is nothing to worry about as this is just another variant of the virus and its treatment is possible.
Are vaccines effective against the Kappa variant?
Since this variant has the L453R mutation, it was suggested that it may be able to escape the immune response as research is still being done on the mutation and there is no concrete data available.
However, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) stated that Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin is effective against the Kappa variant.
The Oxford University researched in June, stating that Covishield protects also against the Kappa variant.
The bottom line: One needs to continue to practice Covid appropriate behaviour (masking and sanitising) while stepping out and get vaccinated at the first opportunity provided. These are the best possible preventive measures against all current Covid-19 variants.