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On 23 June, the Union Health Ministry categorised the Delta Plus variant of COVID-19 as a variant of concern. The variant has detected in four states of India so far. The Ministry directed the states to devise immediate containment measures in areas where the variant has been detected. In the past week, Delta Plus was considered a Variant of Interest (VoI). The variant has been found in 11 countries and infected nearly 200 people.
According to recent reports, India has 40 cases of Delta Plus variant of the novel coronavirus; most of the cases are from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. India is among the ten countries where the Delta Plus mutation has been found so far.
The first case of the Delta Plus variant of COVID-19 was detected in Jammu and Kashmir. The number of cases has increased from 22 on Tuesday to 40 on Wednesday.
The Union Health Ministry has advised Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu that the Public Health Response measures should be more focused and effective and to take up immediate containment measures in the districts.
Delta Plus Variant: What We Know So Far
Based on the findings of INSACOG, the Union Health Ministry alerted Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh that the variant was found in genome sequenced samples from Ratnagiri and Jalgaon Districts of Maharashtra; Palakkad and Pathanamthitta districts of Kerala; and Bhopal and Shivpuri districts of Madhya Pradesh .
Apart from India, the Delta Plus Variant has also been detected in nine countries, including UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Poland, Japan, Nepal, China, and Russia. The Delta Plus variant was first found in Europe.
Here is all the available information about the new variant of concern:
What Is The Delta Plus Variant?
The Delta variant of COVID-19 or the B1.617.2 highly transmissible variant of concern (VOC). Later, the highly transmissible variant of Sars-CoV-2 mutated further into Delta Plus of AY.1 lineage. The new strain Delta Plus contains a K417N mutation in its spike protein, which has been formally designated B.1.617.2.1 .
Most recent reports show that the National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL) is now studying the Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg specimens from Maharashtra to determine the presence of the Delta Plus variation - the two regions with the highest proportion of active infections in India.
According to an official statement, the Delta Plus Variant has shown increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response.
Symptoms Of Delta Plus Variant?
As of now, the new variant is being studied, and scientists are attempting to find out if there are any key differences between symptoms caused by COVID-19 and the Delta Plus mutant. The available data shows that along with the usual symptoms of COVID-19, certain other symptoms too were reported :
- Dry cough
- Aches and pains
- Skin rashes
- Toes and fingers discolouration
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste and smell loss
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Speech loss
- Stomach ache
- Appetite loss
- Joint pain
- Hearing impairment
Can Delta Plus Variant Cause Severe Infection?
Last week, the state health authorities said that the newly identified variant could potentially trigger a third wave in the country . Experts also warned that Delta Plus might show resistance against monoclonal antibodies cocktail treatments such as the Roche and Cipla ones being marketed in India.
However, there is no proof to suggest that this variant could be more transmissible than others. Whether Delta Plus can beat pre-existing immunity better than earlier variants is yet to be understood.
Here are some important points:
- Delta Plus has the mutation called K417N (first found in the Beta variant in South Africa), and also, the features of its predecessor Delta might make the latest variant a lot more transmissible .
- The combination of features from other earlier variants could make Delta Plus adapt better to an immune escape.
- INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics) is currently studying the potential transmissibility/severity of the new variant.
Can Vaccination Prevent Delta Plus Infection?
Reports suggest that the new variant may be able to bypass immunity provided by both vaccine and earlier infection. The two Indian vaccines, Covaxin and Covishield, have shown 3 to 8 times less efficacy against Delta and Beta, reports say .
Just over 4 per cent of Indians are fully vaccinated, and about 18 per cent have received one dose so far. And if the speed doesn't pick up, millions will still be vulnerable, although immunity from past COVID infections can protect people, pointed out experts.
What Does Delta Plus Mean For India? Will There Be A Third Wave?
As the country is beginning to reopen after the second wave of COVID-19 infections, experts warn that a third wave could strike in the next few months. Some experts have warned that a third wave could hit within 12-16 weeks, and others are worried that new variants, including the much talked about Delta plus, could weaken existing vaccines.
The majority of experts said that there is not enough data at the moment to say that it could cause the third wave - but it could change within weeks. "Another wave is inevitable, but we can delay and contain it with appropriate measures like sequencing - to keep an eye on mutations - and strictly enforcing safety protocols" .
The outcome of the third wave also depends on what level of immunity India's population has from both prior infections and vaccines.
In an interview, AIIMS Delhi Director Dr Randeep Guleria has said that three things are crucial to avoid the third wave of COVID-19 in India, and they are as follows :
- Appropriate behaviour,
- good surveillance
- and vaccination
On A Final Note…
The three states have been advised to prevent gatherings and crowds and intermingling of people, facilitate widespread testing, prompt tracing, and vaccine coverage on a priority basis.