Officials said full genome sequencing of more than 800 samples – mainly from Mumbai and Pune – between April and mid-June showed a BS 2.38 as the dominant sub-variant of the Omicron strain of SARS-CoV2 virus.
They added that the analysis of 117 Covid-19 patients, who tested positive for the BA.2.38 subvariable, indicated symptoms similar to those shown by the BA.2 main variant.
“We have also recorded the presence of Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 among the samples that have undergone genome sequencing but the numbers are still few,” Dr Rajesh Kariyakart, Maharashtra coordinator of genome sequencing, told Indianexpress.com. “Currently, samples have been tested 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 about 400 were from Pune. Dr Pradeep Await, Maharashtra State Surveillance Officer, said the authorities were focusing on genome sequencing and had asked Mumbai to send 1,000 samples to Pune laboratories.
“We see the BA.2.38 sub-variable apart from the BA.2 Omicron variant. BA.4 and BA.5 are lower so far. Samples from other regions are also being sought.
Notably, the BA.2.38 subvariate has been identified in several sequences on GISAID from India. Researchers at BJ Medical College, National Institute of Virology and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research evaluated 117 Covid-19 patients with a BS of 2.38 and found similarity in clinical characteristics with the BA.2 Omicron variant.
Pune has seen a slight rise in Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks. Nearly 400 new cases were reported on Sunday, representing a fivefold jump in new infections. On June 1, the district reported about 80 individual cases.
However, infectious disease experts said only a few patients required hospitalization.
Several doctors said it is unlikely that everyone will get tested, and so the majority may not even seek treatment.
“Symptoms involve the upper respiratory tract and treatment is usually anti-allergic tablets except for paracetamol,” said Dr. Amit Dravid, a consultant infectious disease from Nobel Hospital.
“Of the 40 Covid-19 cases treated on an outpatient basis in the past two weeks, at least 10 have had Covid-19 infection in the past while the majority have been fully vaccinated,” Dr. Dravid said.
Dr. Parekshit Prayaj, an infectious disease consultant at Deenanath Mangeshkar Hospital, said they had observed mild symptoms among patients.