With India reporting mutated strains of the novel Coronavirus, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) on Saturday said the new variants could lead to resurgence of COVID-19 cases.
In a statement issued in this regard, DAK President and influenza expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan said that the new variants "could trigger a new wave of COVID-19 that could reignite the pandemic".
After the UK variant, South African and Brazilian variants have now found their way into India," he said.
As per Dr Nisar, at least four people have tested positive for South African variant of the virus and one has tested positive for the Brazilian variant.
While we struggle to come to grips with the foreign strains, the DAK President said a new Indian mutant strain has been found in Maharashtra which, he said, is seeing a spike in cases after a two month lull.
The DAK President said the new variants "are on the move and they can sneak into the valley anytime" adding the mutant strains could easily spread into Kashmir valley, which is emerging as a tourist hotspot of late.
Also, the variants seem to spread more easily and quickly than other variants which could lead to surge in new Covid-19 cases, Dr Nisar said.
He warned that people who have recovered from COVID-19 infection could be re-infected with the new mutated strains of the novel virus.
Quoting a study published in the preprint server bioRxiv, the DAK President said that antibodies elicited by natural COVID-19 infection may not be able to neutralize emerging strains that display mutations in their genetic sequence.
"The new strains have been found to evade the effectiveness of the existing vaccines that have been developed against the original strain of the novel virus," Dr Nisar said.
He said that researchers from Johannesburg have shown that Oxford vaccine had significantly reduced efficacy against the South African variant.
Besides, vaccine trials carried out by Janssen and Novavax too showed a significant drop in efficacy due to the variant, he added.
Dr Nisar warned the variants loom at a time when COVID-19 cases are declining and people are weary of precautions.
"People must realize that the downward trend could quickly reverse if new variants take hold," he added.
"We don't know whether the variants have sneaked in as there is no rigorous genetic surveillance system for tracking the variants. Detecting variants and knowing where and how widely they are spreading could be critical to preventing another deadly wave of COVID-19 like the one we saw earlier," said Dr Nisar.