Indian Covid-19 variant spreads 2.6 times faster than the original Wuhan strain

The Indian Covid variant that has now spread to over 44 countries could spread up to 60 percent faster than the UK variant, a scientist has claimed.

Professor Tom Wenseleers, a biologist and biostatistician at the KU Leuven university in Belgium, said he had analysed how the two strains compared and found the Indian variant to be faster spreading.

The B1617.2 variant is the most common version of the Indian strain and is becoming a more dominant strain worldwide.

Professor Wenseleers, who has published other papers on Covid variants including one about the UK strain in the journal Science, said: ‘The Indian data estimates that B.1.617.2 has a 10% per day growth [advantage] over B.1.1.7 (translates to a ~60% transmission advantage).’

Professor Wenseleers said that the UK variant was approximately 1.6 times as infectious as the Wuhan strain, so another 60 per cent transmissibility could make it 2.6 times faster spreading than the original virus.

He added that its strength was also ‘partly linked to immune evasion’.

Early research has suggested that the variant has evolved in a way that makes immunity from vaccines or past infections slightly weaker than it is against the original virus.

This would allow more people to get reinfected and raise the risk of it spreading in a vaccinated population. Research is still in its early stages but it does not appear to be strong enough to slip past vaccines.

Early tests by a lab run by Professor Ravi Gupta at the University of Cambridge suggested that the original version of the Indian variant saw a slight dip in effectiveness of immunity, but not as bad as with the South African strain.

It suggested that levels of useful antibodies were about six times lower than with the Wuhan variant. But for the South African strain they were 10 times lower in similar tests, the team said.