The Government of India said on Wednesday that a novel ‘double mutant variant of the novel coronavirus was detected in the country. Such double mutations, the Health Ministry said, “confer immune escape and increased infectivity.”

What does double mutation mean?

SARS-CoV-2, like all the other viruses, changes or mutates over time. Many of the times, the mutation is so insignificant that it doesn’t change the way the virus behaves.

In the case of the novel coronavirus, if a mutation leads to a change in its spike protein, then it can pose a problem. The spike protein is used by the virus to latch on to the human cells and enter it. Any change in it can make the variant more virulent and can even evade vaccines.

In the case of the ‘double mutant’ coronavirus detected in India, two mutations occurred in the virus.

What mutations occurred in the variant detected in India?

The Centre said on Wednesday that samples tested in Maharashtra showed an increase in samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations, compared to December. Such double mutants confer immune escape, the Health Ministry said. This means that the body’s immune system is unable to respond to the infectious agent.

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It also leads to “increased infectivity,” the Health Ministry said.

E484Q is similar to E484K, the mutations seen in the Brazil and South Africa variants of coronavirus, BBC reported, quoting Dr Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport.

L452R mutation was found in the California variant of SARS-CoV-2.