The preliminary results of a new study have shown that Covishield vaccine protects against the B.1.617 coronavirus variant first detected in India, Rakesh Mishra, the Director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology said on Thursday.

“Very preliminary but encouraging result,” he said in a tweet. “Early results using in vitro neutralisation assay show that both convalescent (prior infection) sera and Covishield vaccinated sera offer protection against the B.1.617 variant.”

The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology is an institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Follow live updates on the coronavirus crisis here

The B.1.617 variant was first detected in Maharashtra in October, according to the GISAID global database. It was initially thought to comprise two mutations – E484Q and L452R – and hence, referred to as a “double mutant” variant.

Viruses mutate all the time, producing different versions or variants of themselves. However, what has made scientists worry about B.1.617 is the presence of three mutations, E484Q, L452R and P6814 – the reason why some are now referring to it as a “triple mutant” variant. These mutations have been found in other “variants of concern”, a term currently being used for the variants from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

Despite lack of data, there is widespread speculation among Indian scientists that the country’s current coronavirus surge – the worst since the outbreak of the pandemic – is fuelled by the B.1.617 variant. India has been reporting over 2 lakh coronavirus cases daily since 15 April, and has reported more than 3 lakh infections a day for the past two days.

The Indian Council of Medical Research has also said that the indigenously developed coronavirus vaccine, Covaxin, effectively neutralises the double mutant strain of SARS-CoV-2 and other variants. But vaccine manufacturer Bharat Biotech said on Tuesday that data on the effectiveness of Covaxin against Covid variants was only expected in a week.

Covaxin was developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research, the National Institute of Virology and Bharat Biotech. Covishield, the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine, is manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

Also read:

India’s triple mutant Covid variant is sparking global concern. Why do we know so little about it?