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New Delta Plus Variant AY.4.2: Is Vaccine Effective Against It? Everything You Need To Know

A sublineage of the SARS CoV 2 Delta variant has been detected in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Described as an offshoot of the coronavirus Delta variant, AY.4.2 has been under observation in recent days after evidence indicated that it can spread more quickly than the dominant Delta variant.

While the Delta plus variant is not a new emergence, the AY.4.2 mutation is a recent one. On 23 June, the Union Health Ministry categorised the Delta Plus variant of COVID-19 as a variant of concern. The variant was detected in four states of India [1].

As per previous reports, India had 40 cases of Delta Plus variant of the novel coronavirus (detected in April); most of the cases were from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Apart from India, the Delta Plus Variant has also been detected in nine countries, including the UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Poland, Japan, Nepal, China, and Russia. The Delta Plus variant was first found in Europe.

New Delta Plus Variant: What You Need To Know

Since the news of a new Delta plus variant broke, there has been widespread fear. However, experts assured that the Delta Plus variant is not a cause for worry at the moment. Here is everything you need to know about the new Delta plus variant:

  • Seven cases of the new Delta plus variant were detected in Indore in a genome sequencing report released from the National Centre of Disease Control (NCDC) [2].
  • The new Delta AY.4 variant has been detected in 1 per cent samples in Maharashtra.
  • The new variant may be more contagious and even more transmissible than the delta strain.
  • AY. 4.2 is named VUI-21OCT-01 by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) [3].
  • In India, the sub-lineage had caused the Covid surge in the Indore district in September [4].
  • The new variant has not been detected in India in over 68,000 samples from SARS CoV 2 infected patients.
  • Experts also added that when a variant is declared to be more infectious, it does not mean a greater cause for concern; it means that the incubation period of the virus is shorter, so it gets transmitted faster and spread easily.

What Is The AY.4.2 Variant?

As per reports and recent findings, these are the available information on the new variant [5]:

  • The new Delta plus variant is a more contagious strain, but not severe like the Alpha and Delta variants.
  • It belongs to the same family of mutations of the B.1.617.2, or Delta variant.
  • It has been declared as a 'variant under Investigation' in the UK.
  • There is no clear data available to define whether the new Delta plus variant is more transmissible than the Delta variant.
  • Some data suggests AY.4.2 could be 10 per cent more transmissible than the most common UK Delta variant, AY.4 [6].
  • Canada has also seen the emergence of a small number of cases of the new strain [7].

Is The New Delta Plus Variant A Cause For Concern?

Experts have stressed that there is no need to panic. As the coronavirus is moving towards an endemic stage, there will be waves of infection but not severe enough to cause deaths [8].

"Mutations of a virus is inevitable. Flu does that every year, why will COVID be any different? Please understand that just because we have found a mutant doesn't mean it is a problem. The best we can do is vaccinate, which we have done aggressively. So, even if we do have a new wave, it will be so mild that it will not tax the system as it did this year," said experts [9].

In recent months, the sub-lineage has become increasingly common in the UK, with some evidence suggesting that the variant may have an increased growth rate in the UK compared to Delta.

And more data is required to understand whether the increased growth is due to changes in the virus' behaviour or epidemiological conditions [10].

"The genome of VUI-21OCT-01 does not have many mutations compared to Delta. However, a small change may be enough to cause a difference in the virus properties in some circumstances," mentioned UKHSA [11].

What About The Delta Plus Variant Identified Previously?

The AY.4.2 belongs to the same family of mutations that define the B.1.617.2, or the Delta variant [12]. The variants belong to the same family but are results of different mutations.

Is Vaccine Effective Against The New Delta Plus Variant?

As of now, no data has indicated that the new Delta plus variant can render the vaccine less effective. Experts believe that the vaccines currently available will be effective against the subvariant. More samples from international passengers are being tested to understand the new mutation more clearly.

On A Final Note...

As per the data available, the new Delta plus variant has higher transmissibility but the severe disease is unlikely. More samples from international passengers are being tested to understand the new mutation.

Story first published: Tuesday, October 26, 2021, 12:38 [IST]