In a patient sample from Pune, India discovered its first instance of the Omicron BQ.1 sub-variant on Monday. BQ.1, which sprang from Omicron’s BA.5, is the predominant strain of SARS-CoV-2 in the US and has been discovered in more than 60% of recent cases there.
Following the discovery of BF.7, another Omicron sub-variant that was initially discovered in China’s Inner Mongolia region, in Gujarat, BQ.1 was found in the Pune sample. Both BQ.1 and BF.7, according to scientists, include changes that could improve their ability to evade the immune system and spread infection. Less than 5% of Covid cases in India are currently attributable to BA.5 and its sub-lineages. Over 80% of the Covid cases in India are caused by Omicron’s other sub-variant, BA.2, and its sub-lineages, primarily BA.2.75.
In some nations, such as the UK, Germany, and the US, BQ.1 variations have already begun to gain an advantage over competing strains. The BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 infections currently make up 11% of the country’s caseload, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The pair made up just 1% of instances a month earlier.
BQ.1 was discovered in the Pune sample, according to Indian researchers, during the most recent round of genome sequencing in October. According to a top scientist working on India’s genome surveillance network, this is the country’s first known instance of BQ.1 infection.
According to a researcher from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), “These are all next-generation strains or offspring of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. Since Omicron’s appearance in January this year, we have not seen a completely new variant of the virus. However, these sub-variants, called sub-lineages, also have the potential to cause surges, so they should not be ignored.”
Some experts suggested that India upgrade its sewage surveillance systems for improved monitoring. Dr. Sanjay Pujari, a member of India’s national Covid task team, stated that “close genomic surveillance to determine emergence of novel Omicron sub-lineages needs to be undertaken, both from patient samples (outpatients and inpatients) and wastewater.”