As the country battles the coronavirus pandemic with the rising number of positive cases and deaths, there have been many questions and speculations on the fact that if there are different strains of the virus affecting people in different countries.
While there has been debates raging over the question between medical experts and professions, Dr. Ajay Kumar, member of the Council of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, told ETInsights that there could be a strong possibility that the virus spreading in India has a different strain than the ones in the US and Italy.
Dr. Kumar supports his claims by saying that different countries have shown different frequencies in terms of the virus spread. While China, India and the US was somewhat close to 2%, the strain in Italy was more aggressive. However, he also says that other factors such as proactive steps by the government could have played a significant role in determining these statistics.
Citing researches conducted, Dr. Kumar claims that the strain of the virus in India is showing only one mutation rather than two or more found in other countries. According to the doctor, viruses, especially the ones causing flu, mutate rapidly which changes their gene code or genome making it very hard for the medical community to develop a vaccine. He explained that if there is only one mutation then there are chances of getting a vaccine ready sooner.
The gastroenterologist also said that a few other factors such as the demographics of the country, the climate and the immunity of the citizens that might play a role in helping fight the virus.
Explaining further, Dr Kumar said that India has a very young population and hence chances of survival of positive patients go up. “The highest mortality is reported in people above 65 and smokers,” he said, adding that it explains the low virulence.
Dr. Kumar also cited that the Indian population had higher immunological defence relative to other countries which might be another reason for low virulence. He explained that the immunity comes from exposure to different infections that make our human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system show diversity and makes T cell immunity stronger.
“There are some bioinformatics models to show that high endemicity of Malaria and BCG vaccinated population offers some inherent protection from this virus. In a recent Bioinformatics model, it has been shown that in Indians, a specific micro RNA mutates the virus and protects us. We are awaiting lab studies on samples for the same,” Dr. Kumar said.
The doctor also suggested that the warmer climate in the country could help in low virulence too. According to him, hot and humid climate are bad for viruses and it is also true of the other strains of the coronavirus.