India has successfully cultured the new coronavirus strain, which originated in the UK, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said on Saturday.
In a tweet, the ICMR claimed that no country has yet reported successful isolation and culture of the U.K. variant of SARS-CoV-2.
Culture is the process by which cells are grown under controlled conditions, generally outside their natural environment.
“UK variant of the virus, with all signature changes, is now successfully isolated and cultured at the National Institute of Virology (NIV) from the clinical specimens collected from UK-returnees,” the ICMR said.
The research body said vero cell lines were used by the scientists of ICMR-NIV to culture the UK-variant of the virus.
The UK had recently announced that the newly identified strain of the virus found in their population was up to 70 per cent more infectious.
A total of 29 people have tested positive for the new UK variant of SARS-CoV-2 in India so far, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday.
The UK virus strain
The new UK virus variant, which scientists have named “VUI – 202012/01”, includes a genetic mutation in the “spike protein”, which could result in coronavirus spreading more easily between people. It was first announced by Matt Hancock, the UK health secretary, on December 14, and was subsequently confirmed by Public Health England and the UK’s Covid-19 sequencing consortium. Screening back through databases of SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, the first sample was taken in the county of Kent on September 20.
The variant carries 23 mutations in its genetic code – a relatively high number of changes compared with the version that originated in Wuhan, China, a year ago – and some of these are affecting its ability to spread. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that this was as much as 70% more transmissible than previous versions.