Viruses have this property of Mutation and thus produce different versions of themselves, also called Variants. A lot of these variants make the virus less dangerous and less of a threat but at the same time, there are certain variations that make the virus more contagious and harder to defend against.
As the country slowly makes its way back to being normal from COVID-19 infections, the new Delta plus variant of COVID-19 continues to create even more confusion and Chaos in the country and world.
The new Delta variant of COVID-19 has been categorized by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern, as it is observed to be more dominant and infectious than the variant initially discovered in Kent, United Kingdom.
The existing Delta variant scientifically known as B.1.617.2 first detected in October, is known to have further undergone mutation into a new strain called ‘Delta plus’ or ‘AY.1’.
What is this new variant?
The new Delta plus variant or AY.1 variant is an acquisition of K417N mutation. The new variant, due to its low number of occurrences in India, is not yet a variant of Concern(VoC)
“There is an observed spike protein of SARS-COV-2 which helps the virus penetrate and infect the cells of the human body”, says Vinod Scaria, clinician and scientist at Delhi CSIR Institute of genomics and integrative Biology.
The Delta variant (B.1.617.2) - These sequences have been identified in genomes from around 10 countries around the world as of today “, tweets Bani Jolly, a scientist specializing in genomic sequencing.
GISAID is a primary source and global initiative found in 2008 that allows open access to the genomic data (Information derived from the genomes and DNA of an organism) of influenza viruses and also the virus responsible for causing COVID-19.
A total of 63 genomes of The Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 having mutation K417N have been found by the UK health officials.
How dangerous is the new Delta Plus variant to the Indian Population?
The Delta variant was responsible for the second wave of COVID-19 in India and now that the country has started to see a decline in the COVID-19 cases, people are anxious as to what sort of impact, the new Delta plus variant is going to cause to the existing COVID-19 situation in India.
How will it affect treatment measures for COVID-19?
For patients that are diagnosed with mild or moderate COVID-19 infections and are prone or vulnerable to developing severe COVID-19 infections, monoclonal antibody therapy is the technique used to treat such patients.
Monoclonal antibodies are basically clones of the specific antibody used to target the specific antigen. They are created artificially in the laboratory and attach/bind to the spike protein of the SARS CoV-2 virus, thus blocking their entry into healthy cells and causing further infections.
The mutation in the delta variant of COVID-19 has the capacity to resist the monoclonal antibody therapy which is used to treat COVID-19 patients.
“The monoclonal antibody cocktail has received an Emergency Use authorisation (EUA) from the Drug Controller General in India,” adds Dr Scaria. Roche India and Cipla have priced the monoclonal antibody cocktail at Rs. 59,750 per dose.
“The ability of the new variant to be resistant to the monoclonal antibodies does not necessarily determine whether it can become more or less transmissible. It’s not advisable to dwell on the thought of the new strain being more transmissible,” says Immunologist Vineeta Bal, guest faculty at IISER, Pune(Indian Institute of Science Education and Research).
“There is no cause of concern regarding the new Delta Plus Variant in India for now”, says Agrawal, the Director of CSIR-IGIB.
As of June 7, 6 cases of Delta Plus Variant has been reported in India.
Cases of Delta Plus Variant around the world include one each in Canada, Germany and Russia, Two from Nepal, Four from Switzerland, Nine from Poland, 12 in Portugal, 13 cases in Japan and 14 in the USA.