There are more than 7,000 coronavirus mutations in India of which some could pose a serious risk, a senior scientist said on Monday. Rakesh Mishra, Director of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, said among the variants, N440K is spreading a lot more in the southern states.

“We have detected around 24,300 mutations in 7,000 variants of the virus currently under circulation,” an official who is a key member of the National Task Force for Covid-19 informed. The information was also corroborated by contacts working at laboratories that are part of Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG) set-up by the Union Health Ministry in December last year in the backdrop of the emergence of a newly identified variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the UK, South Africa and some other parts of the world.

Mishra, however, added that not every mutation becomes a variant. He added that it is necessary to step up sequencing. “India has so far not been sequencing SARSCoV-2 isolates to full capacity, having deposited only about 6,400 genomes of the over 10.4 million recorded cases (0.06 per cent). “Exploiting advances in genomic epidemiology by monitoring and increasing sequencing efforts following local spikes will go a long way in staying on top of mutations of concern while their biology and effects are studied in greater detail,” the paper said.

After the evolution of the UK and Brazilian strains of coronavirus which are found to be more transmissible, the Indian government stepped up sequencing of the genomes. An Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG) comprising 10 institutes was also formed for this purpose. The CCMB is a part of the consortium.