USJ researchers detected rapidly transmissible SARS-CoV2 UK variant in Sri Lanka by genome sequencing studies

Sequencing of 92 SARS-CoV2 viruses received in our laboratory from January to 1st week of February 2021 was carried out by the Allergy Immunology and Cell Biology Unit, Department of Immunology and Molecular Medicine, University of Sri Jayewardenepura. Sequencing was carried out from viruses from Colombo, Avissawella, Ingiriya, Biyagama, Wattala, Mathugama, Mannar, Vavuniya and from those in several quarantine centres (returnees from overseas).

While most of the virus lineages belonged to the previously circulating B.1.411 lineage (Sri Lankan lineage), a few viruses belonging to the B.1.1.7 (UK lineage) was detected from Colombo, Avissawella, Biyagama and Vavuniya and from a few individuals in the quarantine centres. The B.1.1.7 is the currently rapidly transmissible variant currently circulating in the UK and many other countries. It is associated with a 50% higher transmissibility than the other SARS-CoV2 variants. This does not have any mutations that affect vaccine efficacy. Further analysis is underway.

While it is possible that the B.1.1.7 was introduced from overseas, given the widespread detection of the virus in Sri Lanka, it is possible that our circulating virus strain acquired these mutations de novo, as seen in many other countries, where there is intense transmission of the virus.

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