2 May 2021
Malaysia has detected its first Covid-19 variant of the highly infectious ‘Indian strain’ with double mutations, called B.1.617.1.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba said the variant was detected on an Indian National screened at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) following a whole-genome sequencing (WGS) that was done by the Institute of Medical Research (IMR) from April 24 to May 1.
“We reported the first case of the Indian Variant with double mutations called B.1.617.1 in an Indian National screened at KLIA,” he said in a statement today.
The B.1.617 variant, which is feared to be contributing to a drastic increase in Covid-19 cases in India, has been designated as the Variants of Interest (VOI) by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
WHO had said the variant has been reported in at least 17 countries, rising global concern. It said the predominant lineage of B.1.617 was first identified in India last December, although an earlier version was spotted in October 2020.
The WHO had also described the Indian strain as a “variant of interest”, citing it may have mutations that would make the virus more transmissible, and cause more severe disease or evade vaccine immunity.
Adham said based on the WGS report, which involved 59 more WGS that was conducted from April 24 to May 1, authorities have identified several variants of concerns (VOC).
“These include 30 more variants of concern (27 South African B.1.351 and 3 UK B.117) and one variant of interest, the Indian Variant B.1.617.
“Unfortunately this is also the first report of South African VOC B.1.351 in Perak and Kelantan involving some significant clusters with 10 cases in each state. In addition, we are still detecting the B.1.351 in Selangor (seven cases).
“There is also an additional three more UK B.117 involving two cases in Selangor and a single case in Sandakan, Sabah (first report of VOC in Sabah), involving a non-Malaysian.
“This is also the first report of UK B.117 among persons without a history of travel to overseas and hence suggest of local transmission.”
To date, he said there are 48 cases of South African B.1.351, eight cases of UK B.117, one Indian Variant B.1.617 and two Nigerian Variant B. 1.525.
Meanwhile, he said the rest of the WGS done in this batch (28) are from the current circulating Covid-19 lineage in Malaysia ( B.1.524 and B1.466.2) from Selangor, Perak, Sabah and Sarawak.
“Also there is a single case of C lineage ( C.36) from a person with a history of travel to Egypt.
The C.36 is the dominant lineage in Egypt.
“We also found that there is a gradual increase in the number of VOC especially the South African B.1.351 among the samples that we are performing full genome sequencing, suggesting potential replacement of the VOC ( B.1.351) of the local lineage ( B.1.524),” he added.