As many as 70 per cent of the Covid-19 positive samples from Centre-run PGI Chandigarh have been detected with the UK variant of novel coronavirus which is believed to have rapid transmission than other variants of SARS-CoV-2.

Prof (Dr) Jagat Ram, director of the apex institute, told The Statesman that genome sequencing of 60 samples sent by the PGI revealed that 70 per cent carried the UK variant, 20 per cent had 681 H mutant while one sample was found to be infected with the double mutant of the coronavirus.

“We received results of 60 samples from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Delhi. Of them, the UK variant or B.1.1.7 was found in 42 samples, 12 were infected by 681 H mutant while one sample was detected with the double mutant or B.1.617 lineage,” he informed.

The institute’s director said that the genome sequencing results suggest that the UK variant is dominating the current tide of Covid-19, at least in Punjab.

The samples’ data also corroborates the data by the NCDC released in March which showed 81 per cent of the samples from Punjab carrying the UK strain.

Experts suggest that the UK strain may be up to 70 per cent more transmissible or infectious. Research by Public Health England puts it between 30 and 50 per cent.

However, Prof Ram said that apart from the UK, the double mutant is now being reported frequently. “While it has been reported in just one sample, it can be inferred that its spread within the community is picking up,” he cautioned.

The B.1.617 variant of SARS-CoV-2 carries two mutations, E484Q and L452R. Both are separately found in many other coronavirus variants, but they have been reported together for the first time in India.

As per experts, a “double mutation” is when two mutated strains of a virus come together to form a third strain. The one reported in India is the result of the E484Q and L452R strains combining. The L452R strain is found in California in the United States and the E484Q strain is indigenous.

When asked whether the samples showed any aggravated symptoms or the severity of the Covid-19, the PGI director said that the severity factor was not analysed in the genome sequencing of the samples.