New COVID variant KP.2 detected in West Bengal

In recent weeks, 36 samples have tested positive for the newest Covid variant, KP.2, in genomic sequencing performed across India, with a significant focus on West Bengal.

| Updated: 20 May, 2024 2:22 pm IST

NEW DELHI: In recent weeks, 36 samples have tested positive for the newest Covid variant, KP.2, in genomic sequencing performed across India, with a significant focus on West Bengal. An offshoot of Omicron, this variant is contributing to a rise in cases in several states.

Health officials report that KP.2 is replacing the JN.1 variant, which is currently appearing in about 50% of samples being sequenced. Although there has been a slight increase in COVID cases, officials emphasize that there is no cause for alarm as the strain is causing only mild symptoms.

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Out of the 286 samples tested positive for KP.2 nationwide, Maharashtra accounts for the largest share. Most of the samples sequenced at the National Institute of Biomedical Genomics in Kalyani were from Kolkata. A state health official noted that KP.2, a descendant of the Omicron variant JN.1, has been circulating in Bengal for over four months and is gradually replacing its predecessor.

Microbiologist Bhaskar Narayan Chaudhuri of Peerless Hospital explained that KP.2 is part of the FLIRT group of SARS-CoV-2 variants, which includes KP. JN.1.7 and others with similar mutations through a process known as convergent evolution. Chaudhuri highlighted that while KP.2 can evade immunity from previous infections or vaccinations, it results in only mild symptoms, making COVID a less severe respiratory infection compared to influenza and adenovirus infections.

Doctors maintain that there is no immediate cause for concern. Despite KP.2’s high transmission rate and potential to cause another surge like the one experienced in December 2023 and January 2024, state officials state that the current number of active cases remains low, with only about 30 active cases in the state and no COVID-positive inpatients in most city hospitals.

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Infectious diseases specialist Yogiraj Ray from IPGMER stated that the emergence of new RNA virus strains is normal and there is no reason to panic unless there is an increase in severe infections and hypoxic patients, which has not been observed.

Health experts predict more KP.2 infections due to the ongoing election season, but note that the mildness of symptoms means few people are getting tested. Immunologist Dipyaman Ganguly from the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology in Kolkata assured that KP.2 has not shown widespread or severe disease in detected cases, and there is no imminent alarm.

Overall, while KP.2 is spreading, health officials and experts are confident that it poses no significant threat, urging the public to remain calm and continue monitoring the situation.

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