Delta plus variant of SARS-CoV-2:
A novel SARS-CoV-2 variant, the delta plus variant, has been identified in over 10 countries. Health authorities are raising concerns that the variant may have an increased ability to transmit, but they also note that this variant’s transmissibility is probably going almost like that of the preexisting delta variant.
As ever more SARS-CoV-2 variants emerge, governments and public health experts still consider the simplest strategies to contain their spread. There are currently 11 variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that the planet Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source is monitoring.
One of these variants, the delta variant — also referred to as the B.1.617.2 lineage — was first identified in India in December 2020 and quickly became the foremost common variant within the country.
It has demonstrated 40–60% increased transmission, as compared with the previously dominant alpha variant, and is currently the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant within the uk .
Meanwhile, researchers recently identified another variant — the delta plus variant also referred to as B.1.617.2.1 or AY.1.
The U.K. governmental agency Public Health England first declared it a “variant of concern” during a June 11 briefing, and on June 22, Indian authorities followed suit.
Since then, 11 countries have reported a collective 197 cases of COVID-19 caused by the delta plus variant of SARS-COV-2.
The delta plus variant may be a sublineage of the delta variant, with the sole known difference being a further mutation, K417N, within the virus’ spike protein, the protein that permits it to infect healthy cells.
This mutation is additionally found within the beta and gamma variants, which researchers first identified in South Africa and Brazil, respectively.
What risks does this variant pose?
The WHO shared with Reuters that “For the instant, this variant doesn’t seem to be common, currently accounting for less than a little fraction of the delta sequences.”
Yet, “Delta and other circulating variants of concern remain a better public health risk, as they need demonstrated increases in transmission,” the WHO added.
Furthermore, since India has labeled this variant a “variant of concern,” the country’s SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics (INSACOG), which is formed from 28 laboratories dedicated to whole-genome sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and its evolving variants, continues to follow the evolution of delta plus.
INSACOG lists the subsequent concerns regarding the delta plus variant:
*stronger binding to receptors of lung cells
*potential reduction in antibody response
The spike protein is liable for binding to a cell’s surface receptors, allowing the virus to enter. A mutation within the protein may strengthen this interaction, which could increase transmissibility, as per these first two points.
This mutation, however, is present in other variants, as well, so it’s likely not a replacement source of concern.
Additionally, virologist Dr. Jeremy Kamil, from the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, suggested to the BBC that “Delta plus may need a small advantage at infecting and spreading between people that were previously infected earlier during the pandemic or who have weak or incomplete vaccine immunity.”
But he also noted that this is often not much different from the delta variant.
Other experts have also raised the third point, about the variant’s potential to scale back the effectiveness of antibody treatments.
These include therapies like the bamlanivimab and etesevimab and REGN-COV2 combination therapies, which researchers have shown to be beneficial in treating mild to moderate COVID-19 when given early during the course of the disease.
However, this reduced effectiveness “is not a serious difference, because the therapy itself is investigational and few are eligible for this treatment,” said epidemiologist and vaccine expert Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya during a CNBC interview.
What can we get to do now?
Variants with increased transmissibility and therefore the potential to flee antibodies pose a threat to efforts to regulate and mitigate the pandemic. And countries with low vaccination rates may even see new outbreaks.
How should our response change? Despite the mutations, no phenomenal measures got to be taken. We must still get maximum numbers of individuals vaccinated, increase genomic surveillance to trace the evolution of the virus, and follow COVID-appropriate behavior.