Just as India was breathing a sigh of relief that the second wave is nearly over, experts have identified another mutant, this time even more dangerous — the Delta Plus. Ever since coronavirus first hit the world in 2019, the virus has been constantly transforming. There is a long list of new variants; the new mutant version of the Delta strain of Covid first detected in India, Delta Plus, has now been seen as a virulent type. Labeled as a “variant of concern” by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), people have been warned against it.
Cases of the new variant have started to surface in Maharashtra, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh. The health ministry has advised these three states to ramp up containment measures in the affected districts. Additionally, the new mutant has also been detected in Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. Apart from India, the Delta Plus variant has been detected in around 80 countries including the US, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Nepal, Poland, China and Russia so far, said Dr Shuchin Bajaj, internal medicine, founder-director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals.
What is Delta Plus?
A variant that has emerged as a new threat, especially in India, Delta Plus (B.1.617.2.1/(AY.1) is a new mutant strain of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2. It is technically the next generation of SARS-COV-2. “The Delta variant that was first detected in India eventually became a huge problem for the whole world. However, the Delta Plus variant, at present, is limited to smaller areas in the country. This mutant of Delta was first detected in Europe in March 2021, but it came to light on June 13. Although it is still under investigation, experts believe that the Delta Plus variant has increased transmissibility,” Dr Bajaj told indianexpress.com.
What is known so far
*The new Delta plus variant has been formed due to a mutation in the Delta or B.1.617.2 variant.
*Delta Plus (AY.1) is resistant to monoclonal antibodies cocktail.
*Since it’s a new variant, its severity is still unknown.
*63 genomes of Delta (B.1.617.2) with the new K417N mutation have been identified by the GISAID (global science initiative) so far.
*The mutation is in the spike protein of SARS-COV-2, which helps the virus enter and infect the human cells.
*One of the emerging variants is B.1.617.2.1 or AY.1 is characterised by the acquisition of K417N mutation.
*Delta plus was present in six genomes from India as of June 7, as per Public Health England (PHE).
*The variant frequency for K417N is not much in India at this point in time. The sequences are mostly from America, Europe, and Asia.
*The earliest sequence of this genome was found in Europe in late March this year.
According to ZOE app in the UK, people reported symptoms like headaches, sore throats, runny noses, and fever.
Are COVID-19 vaccines effective against the Delta Plus variant?
“Medical experts say it is too early to predict the effectiveness of the existing vaccines on the new variant. A detailed study would be required to establish any effect of the mutant on the immune system. However, Rajesh Bhushan, Union Health Ministry Secretary says that both Indian vaccines — Covishield and Covaxin are effective against the Delta variant,” said Dr Bajaj.
There is fear that this new variant Delta Plus may spark the third wave of COVID-19, but “there is a very low incidence of such cases, so there is no certainty”, he said.