Risk of new coronavirus variants in upcoming days: Expert – The Financial Express

There is a risk of new coronavirus variants emerging in upcoming days, with the current testing methods not enough to detect them, said an expert who suggested people to go for a BioFire test for confirmation.
Dr Suruchi Mandrekar, consultant at (internal medicine) Manipal Hospital in Pune’s Baner, said if a new variant of coronavirus emerges, then the RT-PCR test being conducted to detect Covid-19 may not establish it.
She said Pune has seen seven cases of a “rookie virus” till now. So far, a majority of Covid-19 cases in the country saw the prevalence of the omicron variant.
“If it is a new strain, the RT-PCR may come negative the first time. But if the patient is not improving clinically, then it could be a type of coronavirus which is a mixed infection. For that the patient would have to do a viral BioFire marker, a test through which we can identify whether it is the rookie coronavirus,” Dr Mandrekar said. 
She said a majority of the country’s population may not be at risk until a new variant of coronavirus emerges. This would have to be picked up early to enable better treatment, she stressed.
A BioFire marker test is done through nasal swabs through the respiratory panel. Normally, it takes three to four days for the results to come in but it depends on the labs.
According to Dr Mandrekar, the “rookie virus” is not very common yet. But if a patient experiences intense symptoms then it may be the “rookie virus” and not the Covid-19 virus, she said.
She said it is like omicron and is a coronavirus, however, it is not Covid-19. This infection usually occurs in conjunction with the respiratory syncytial virus, which is the virus of the common cold. Only a few patients have been seen with the “rookie virus”.
There is no specific testing happening for the “rookie virus” currently but the suspected cases are quite a few. Any patients who are admitted and suspected of the virus are being tested, Dr Mandrekar said. It is moderate as it can cause low saturation within a few hours. But if left untreated, it can cause lung injury which can have an impact over a long period of time.
Manipal Hospital was checking patients coming into the OPD with a cold and looking at their vitals and saturation. Suspected patients and those with low saturation are being told to get the test done as within a few hours, the condition could go bad, however, the rate of recovery was good.
These patients are being treated based on symptoms and they could need additional oxygen support. Treatment of this virus is symptomatic and is treated by the general anti-allergy, painkillers, and anti-inflammatory that are given. The precautions remain the same and patients suffering from colds have been advised to start wearing a mask.
The INSACOG, reports genomic surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 by whole genome sequencing of samples from sentinel sites across the country and international passengers arriving in India, have sequenced 2,75,247 samples and state governments have sequenced 34,763 samples in March 2023. 
According to the INSACOG bulletin, Omicron and its sub-lineages continue to be the dominant variants in India.
An increase in infection rate has been observed, especially in western, southern and northern parts of India. A newly emerged recombinant variant XBB.1.16 has been observed in different parts of India, accounting for 38.2% of the infection to date, INSACOG said. 
Among the samples collected till the third week of March 2023, XBB continued to be the most commonly circulating Omicron sub-lineages. A few BA.2.10 and BA.2.75 sub-lineage was detected in some part of India.
The country on Monday reported 3,641 fresh Covid-19 cases with 11 deaths. India’s active caseload stood at 20,219 cases with 59,512 tests conducted in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said. The daily positivity rate was 6.12% while the weekly positivity rate was 2.45%. Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Monday that the omicron variant was circulating in the country and there was no increase in hospitalisation so there was no need to worry.
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