Everything you need to know about the Indian variant of Covid-19: How the vaccine will affect it and its presence in Ireland 2 weeks ago

Everything you need to know about the Indian variant of Covid-19: How the vaccine will affect it and its presence in Ireland

Here's everything you need to know.

The B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, which originated in India, has been a topic of much conversation in recent days.

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The new strain has been a cause of concern, even with an increase in vaccinations over recent weeks. Here is everything you need to know about the new variant.

Is the virus in Ireland yet?

Three cases of the B.1.617 variant have been reported in Ireland so far.

Two of the three cases have been associated with travel.

Is it more transmissible?

Speaking on RTÉ's Today show with Claire Byrne, Dr Cillian de Gascun said it is too early to say if the variant is responsible for the rise of cases in India or if the country is just experiencing a new wave of the virus.

He said he would be more concerned about the variant first detected in South Africa as there are currently more cases of the strain present in Ireland. However, he said, the numbers are still really small, with only around 1,000 sequences a week being carried out thus far.

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Where did it originate?

Researchers first discovered the new variant with two new mutations which may be better at evading the immune system in India.

In 15-20% of samples from the Indian state of Maharashtra (the state accounting for 62% of cases in the country), a new, double mutation in key areas of the virus had been detected.

In what ways does it differ from other strains?

The double mutation is concerning because it is located in the spike protein of the virus, which is the part it uses to penetrate human cells.

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Spike proteins attach via receptor binding domains, meaning the virus can attach to receptors in our cells. However, the newer mutations include changes to the spike protein that make it fit better to human cells.

This is a problem because it means the virus can gain entry into the cells easier and multiply faster.

Does the Covid-19 vaccine protect against the strain?

Speaking on RTÉ's Today show with Claire Byrne, Dr De Gascun said there is currently no evidence to suggest that the B.1.617 variant will have an impact on vaccine effectiveness.

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He added that the situation is being monitored due to the mutations in the spike protein.