Researchers in Sri Lanka on Friday detected a new sub-lineage of the Delta variant of Covid-19. This is the third mutation of the coronavirus which originated in the island nation, news agency PTI reported. The health officials have named the variant B.1.617.2. AY 104.
Sri Lankan health authorities are yet to ascertain the transmissibility of sub-lineage and have sent the sample to laboratories in Hong Kong for further analysis. Researchers at the University of Sri Jayewardenepura were the first to detect the sub-lineage AY-104.
The university’s director of molecular and cell biology department, Dr Chandima Jeewadara, said that AY-104 took the total number of variants originating from Sri Lanka to three.
“The first one was B.411, which is a lineage of the ancestral SARS-CoV-2 virus, the second was B.1.617.2. AY 28 and this is the third one (B.1.617.2. AY 104,” he was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
The SARS-CoV-2 Delta (B.1.617.2) variant is highly transmissible and was responsible for the rapid uptick in coronavirus cases across the globe, even in populations with higher rates of vaccination.
Jeewadara said the new variant was detected in north, north-central and southern provinces of the state while further adding that other strains were detected in western province and capital Colombo. He further added that 288 samples were confirmed for AY 104 while 479 tested positive for the AY 28 variant. The AY 104 variant was found after tests were conducted on random samples.
In the last few weeks Sri Lanka was witnessing a new uptick in cases and infections were rising fast along with the fact that many were breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals and many had high viral loads upon hospital admission and also were suffering from moderate to severe conditions. Many required ICU critical care and ventilators.
This prompted local physicians to request the genomic and virology experts from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura to conduct detailed sequencings.
Already the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant is highly transmissible and was behind the rapid uptick in cases across the world, even in populations with high vaccination rates.
The AY.4.2 delta sub-variant is also becoming of concern due to the high surge in cases in Europe where it originated from.
The new AY.104 could be of a concern for Asia as it is believed that the sub-variant could have already spread to India and elsewhere in Asia as there were cases of travelers originating form Sri Lanka testing positive in certain Asian countries.
The transmissibility and immune evasive details of sub-lineage AY.104 is yet to be confirmed. Officials said the samples of the sub-lineage have been sent to laboratories in Hong Kong for further analysis and studies.
Dr Jeewadara it was significant that the new variant had been detected in North, North-Central and Southern provinces of Sri Lanka in areas reporting new surges, breakthrough infections and disease severity.
The other indigenous COVID-19 strains were detected in Western Province (capital Colombo).
Sri Lanka health authorities meanwhile have warned of fresh COVID-19 clusters forming in the North-Central and Southern provinces.
Sri Lanka’s Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath told , “This has been caused by the failure to adhere to health guidelines. Numerous public events and functions had been held without following health requirements. “
Sri Lankas’s health minister Keheliya Rambukwella said over 75 per cent of the population over 16 years of age and 61.8 per cent of the total population have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
He added, “The booster shot is being administered to those over 60 years as we speak.”
It was reported that over 160,000 Sri Lankans over 60 years have received the Pfizer-BioNTech jab as a third or booster dose as of Friday. Sri Lankas’s health minister Keheliya Rambukwella made an appeal against vaccine hesitancy in some parts of the country.
To date the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has claimed 14,072 lives, along with 554,459 confirmed cases, in the country, the health ministry had said in an update on Thursday.
On Friday, Sri Lanka reported 745 new COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths, taking the overall death toll to 14,086.