The AY.4.2 lineage of Covid-19, a subvariant of the Delta coronavirus strain, has appeared in at least six states of India, manifesting in as many as 17 cases reported so far, according to data uploaded on GISAID, an open-source database tracking the genomic signature of coronavirus variants.
While the central government has said that a panel of experts was looking into this new coronavirus strain which is believed to be behind the recent infection explosion in the United Kingdom, British authorities have posited that AY.4.2 could possibly be even more transmissible than Delta, although there currently is no evidence suggesting that it caused more severe diseases or rendered vaccines ineffective.
The most recent cases of AY.4.2 coronavirus variant reported in India was when two suspected cases were identified earlier this week and the samples were sent to a laboratory in Bengaluru for genome sequencing.
As per data available on GISAID, the 17 samples of AY.4.2 found so far in India include – seven in Andhra Pradesh, four in Kerala, two each in Telangana and Karnataka, and one each in Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir.
What is AY.4.2 sub-lineage?
Matthew Bashton and Darren Smith, from Northumbria University in Newcastle, said that 75 AY lineages of the coronavirus have been identified till now, each with different additional defining mutations in their genome.
Talking about these in The Conversation, the duo said one of these variants – the AY.4 – has been steadily growing in proportion in the UK over the last few months, accounting for 63% of new cases in the last 28 days.
"The defining change in AY.4.2 is the mutation A1711V, which affects the virus's Nsp3 protein, which plays a number of roles in viral replication. However, the impact of this mutation is unknown," Bashton and Smith said in their article.
Is there a need to be worried?
Although the AY.4.2 coronavirus variant has entered several European countries at this point, experts believe that it has yet to take hold somewhere else other than the United Kingdom.
It has dropped off the radar in Germany and Ireland, though it is lingering in Denmark.
It is still too early to tell if this is the beginning of the next dominant lineage, and any ability this variant might have of escaping immunity needs to be confirmed by experimental work.