Whole genome sequencing on more than 800 samples – mainly from Mumbai and Pune – between April and mid-June has shown BA.2.38 as the prevailing sub-variant of the Omicron strain of the SARS-CoV2 virus, officials said.
The analysis of 117 Covid-19 patients, who had tested positive for the BA.2.38 sub-variant, indicates similar symptoms to those manifested by the parent variant BA.2, they added.
“We have also registered the presence of Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 among the samples that have undergone genome sequencing but numbers are still few,” Dr Rajesh Karyakarte, Maharashtra coordinator for genome sequencing, told indianexpress.com. “At present, the samples are testing positive for both BA.2 and BA.2.38,” he added.
Maharashtra reported 4,004 new cases on June 19, of which more than 2,000 were from Mumbai and around 400 from Pune. Dr Pradeep Awate, Maharashtra surveillance officer, said the authorities are focussing on genome sequencing and have even asked Mumbai to send 1,000 samples to the Pune laboratories.
“We are seeing the BA.2.38 sub-variant apart from the BA.2 Omicron variant. BA.4 and BA.5 are lesser so far. Samples from other districts are also being sought,” he said.
Notably, the BA.2.38 sub-variant has been identified in many sequences on GISAID from India. Researchers at BJ Medical College, National Institute of Virology and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, had also assessed 117 Covid-19 patients with BA.2.38 and found similarity in the clinical characteristics with the BA.2 Omicron variant.
Pune has seen an uptick in Covid-19 cases in the last fortnight. Nearly 400 new cases were reported on Sunday, marking a five-fold jump in new infections. On June 1, the district had reported around 80-odd cases.
However, infectious diseases experts have said only few patients were requiring hospitalisation.
It is unlikely that everyone is getting tested and hence the majority may not even be seeking treatment, several doctors said.
“The symptoms involve the upper respiratory tract and treatment is usually anti-allergic tablets apart from Paracetamol,” Dr Amit Dravid, infectious diseases consultant from Noble hospital, said.
“Of the 40 Covid-19 cases treated on an OPD basis in the last fortnight, at least 10 have had Covid-19 infection in the past while a majority were fully vaccinated,” Dr Dravid said.
Dr Parikshit Prayag, infectious diseases consultant at Deenanath Mangeshkar hospital, also said that they had noted mild symptoms among patients.