The New Worrisome COVID Variant: Delta Plus

What is this new variant, and will the vaccines protect us against it?

At the time of writing this article on Wednesday, there were more than 40 cases in India of the new Delta Plus strain. Sources told NDTV that there are 21 cases in Maharashtra, six in Madhya Pradesh, three in Kerala, three in Tamil Nadu, two in Karnataka and one each in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Jammu.

It is a variant of Delta (B.1.617.2), which was first detected in India, and this variant is formally known as AY.1 or B.1.617.2.1. This variant has an additional mutation called K417N, which has been previously detected in the Beta variant (first identified in South Africa) and the Gamma variant (first found in Brazil). This variant has been tagged as a “Variant of Concern” by the Indian government.

Seven of the around 28,000 coronavirus genomes sequences out of India reportedly belong to the AY.1 lineage until now. Globally, 143 genomes have been labelled as AY.1 until now and reported from Nepal, Portugal, Switzerland, Poland, Japan, Russia, Turkey, United Kingdom, France, United States and Canada.

According to an official statement, this variant has shown increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response. Experts in Maharashtra said that due to the new variant, the third wave many come earlier than predicted, writes NDTV.

But we have vaccines. Wouldn’t they help? The government said Covishield and Covaxin are effective against the Delta variant, but data on how effective they are against the Delta Plus will be shared later. However, according to a database of the CSIR-IGIB, the mutation was associated with resistance to Casirivimab and Imdevimab, which is a newly developed monoclonal antibody treatment drug, for those with moderate and severe disease but at high risk.

At present, the prevalence of this new variant is still low in India. Hence, further scientific evidence and research is needed to understand more about this variant. But the emergence of these new variants show how COVID-19 is here to stay for a long time despite the vaccines, and how we should continue to follow the safety guidelines even after taking the vaccine.

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