The Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) Thursday called for genetic testing of positive samples to look for new COVID-19 variants in Kashmir.
A statement of DAK issued here quoted the DAK President Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan as saying that the genetic testing would not only help identify known mutants that might have entered Kashmir but also check whether any mutant had emerged within the region.
He said that the detecting and tracking variants was critical to prevent another deadly wave of COVID-19 like the one seen earlier.
“Picking up variants is key to formulate appropriate and effective health policy that will help prevent and control their spread in the community,” Dr Hassan said, “If we don’t know the changes in the genetic structure of the virus, we are running blind.” He said that the viruses had a tendency to mutate and thousands of COVID-19 mutations had been recorded across the world since the outbreak of the pandemic.
“Most mutations are meaningless, but others can make a virus more infectious, deadly or resistant to vaccines and treatment,” Dr Hassan said.
He said that three foreign strains – UK, South African and Brazilian strains – that had found their way into India spread more easily and research is underway if they can cause more serious disease.
Dr Hassan said that recently two highly-mutated variants – N440K and E484K had been found in Maharashtra, Kerala and Telangana that had raised concern as their presence had been detected at a time when cases were rising in these states.
He said that E484K was commonly termed as an escape mutation as it helped the virus slip past the body’s immune response; N440K was associated with greater binding affinity with human receptors and linked with faster transmission capability.