What are the characteristics of the variant detected in India?

This is part 91 of our coronavirus FAQ. Click here to read other installments: #Coronavirus the facts. Find the latest information and answers from experts on everything COVID-19.

India strain a "variant of concern"

The World Health Organization has labeled a strain of COVID-19 first identified in India as a "variant of concern." The organization says there is information suggesting that the variant has a higher rate of transmission.

Three other variants, from the UK, South Africa and Brazil, have already been given that designation.

The WHO says samples resembling the India variant had been found in 49 countries and regions as of May 11, 2021. Sixty-six cases had been found in Japan's airport quarantines, and four cases within Japan as of May 10, 2021.

Mutations in India variant

The WHO says the India variant has at least two mutations, caused by changes of amino acids in its spike protein, which could affect its transmissibility or resistance to immunity.

It is not rare to find COIVD-19 samples with two or more mutations, but not all mutations have the same impact on characteristics such as infectious capacity.

The UK variant, which is spreading in Japan's Kansai region, has more than five mutations in its spike protein. The problematic one is the N501Y mutation, which could increase the infectious capacity.

This information is accurate as of May 14, 2021.