On May 10, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 Technical Lead at the World Health Organisation, said that the B.1.617 virus variant, first identified in India, had been classified as a “variant of interest” by the WHO.
The Epi team and the WHO lab team have been discussing in detail with the WHO virus evolution working group this variant, its transmissibility and any studies being done in India or other countries where this virus is circulating. The information available so far suggests increased transmissibility of B.1.1617 and so, they have classified the variant as one of concern at the global level.
However, Dr Kerkhove said they need more information about the variant in this lineage, so more targeted sequencing needs to be done, and shared in India and elsewhere to understand the extent of the circulation of this variant. Dr Kerkhove added there is need for more information on the epidemiologic studies and studies that are evaluating neutralization severity.
“This is important. We will continue to see variants emerge. We will continue to see variants of concern around the world and we must do everything that we can to really limit the spread, limit infections, prevent the spread and reduce severe disease and death with the tools that we have at hand,” Dr Kerkhove said.