While Covid-19 cases in India show a downward trend, coming down from 3,92,488 on May 1 to 67,208 on June 16, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, a new variant known as the ‘Delta plus’ or ‘AY.1’ has emerged. This is a mutated version in the Delta variant (formerly known as the India variant), responsible for the deadly second wave that wreaked havoc in India. The reason behind the formation of ‘Delta plus’ is due to the K417N mutation in B.1.617.2 variant, first reported in India on June 11.
On June 16, a meeting was held by Maharashtra Health Department about preparations to contain a possible third wave of Covid-19. Maharashtra is the worst-hit state by the pandemic in the second wave of coronavirus. The Health Department informed Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray that a highly virulent ‘Delta plus‘ variant could trigger the third wave of coronavirus in Maharashtra.
Here are the top five things to know about this new variant:
1. A variant of interest
‘Delta plus’ variant has been classified as a “variant of interest”.During a press conference held by Niti Aayog on June 15, V.K. Paul (Health Member at Niti Aayog) said, “This is as of now a Variant of Interest (VoI), not as yet classified as a Variant of Concern (VoC). VoC is one in which we have understood that there are adverse consequences to humanity, which could be due to increased transmissibility or virulence. We do not know at this moment about the ‘Delta plus’ variant.”
2. Found in 10 countries
Bani Jolly, Research Fellow at CSIR- Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology and genomic sequencing expert tweeted about the spike mutation in the delta variant and it’s spread.
Jolly tweeted, “A small number of sequences of Delta (B.1.617.2) having spike mutation K417N can be found on GISAID. As of today, these sequences have been identified in genomes from 10 countries.”
3. Resistance to antibodies
The monoclonal antibody cocktail therapy uses artificially produced proteins that prevent the virus from attacking the body. And the K417N spikes in the ‘Delta plus’ variant are found to be resistant to monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment as discussed by Vinod Scaria, a scientist at CSIR-Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology.
4. Tackling the variant
Methods to tackle this new variant, however, remain similar to other generic Covid-19 norms.
“One of the important tools to tackle any new variant is by following COVID Appropriate Behaviour. The root cause is the chain of transmission. So, if we are able to address the root cause and break the chains of transmission, we will be able to contain the spread, whichever the variant maybe, V.K. Paul (Health Member at Niti Aayog) said on June 15.
5. Breakthrough cases
Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom released a report on June 11. The report stated that there were two out of 36 vaccination breakthrough cases of this ‘Delta plus’ variant based on VoC (variants of concern) and variants of investigation in England.
Public Health England, very limited information is available about the epidemiology of the ‘Delta plus’ variant. So far, there are 63 genomes of the ‘Delta plus’ variant that are found in various countries and six of them were reported in India.