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The new’ Delta Plus ‘ variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been identified; by far the most dangerous variant…

The new’ Delta Plus ‘ variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been identified; by far the most dangerous variant. and in what countries is the most now?..

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The variant is a mutation of the Delta strain of SARS-CoV-2
  • Delta plus variant identified in six genomes from India: Public Health England
  • The variant frequency for Delta plus is not much in India at this point in time: Vinod Scaria

In May, the WHO tagged B.1.617.2 strain as the ‘Delta’ variant of SARS-CoV-2. The variant was identified as one of the drivers of the second wave of coronavirus infections that devastated parts of the country earlier this year.

The ‘Delta’ variant has further mutated to form the ‘Delta plus’ or ‘AY.1’ variant. Initial data suggests that the Delta plus variant shows signs of resistance against the monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment. This treatment for Covid-19 was recently authorised by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).

The delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 — scientifically known as the B.1.617.2 lineage

Trusted Source — was first identified by scientists in December 2020 in India.

In April 2021, the delta variant became the most commonly spread variant that caused new COVID-19 cases in India. Since then, this variant has been reported in 80 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)Trusted Source.

Recently, there have been concerns — particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States — that the delta variant could give rise to another COVID-19 wave, thus setting back national and international efforts to ease pandemic restrictions.

According to the latest report from Public Health England (PHE), the delta variant may have become the dominant variant in the U.K., with “74% of sequenced cases [of SARS-CoV-2 infection] and 96% of sequenced and genotyped cases” being caused by this variant.

In the U.S., data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put the proportion of new COVID-19 cases attributed to the delta variant at 2.7%. This is the most recent genomic surveillance data dating to the 2 weeks ending on May 22, 2021.

More recently, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb has noted that around 10% of new COVID-19 cases are due to the delta variant.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has reportedly warned that “any country that has the delta variant should be concerned that there will be a surge of infections, particularly if that particular country does not have a substantial proportion of their people vaccinated.”

“We’ve seen that when delta variant spreads among non-vaccinated people, it can become dominant very, very quickly,” he added.

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Based on the data from the U.K., the delta variant is about 60%Trusted Source more transmissible than the alpha variant, which was previously called B.1.1.7. Alpha, in turn, is more transmissible than the strain previously dominant in the country.

Prof. Wendy Barclay, professor of virology and head of the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London in the U.K., explained that this variant is more transmissible than previous ones because of some key mutations in the spike protein, which allows the virus to penetrate and infect healthy cells.

“The delta variant has got two important mutations in its spike protein, or sets of mutations,” she noted. “One is at the furin cleavage siteTrusted Source, which we think is quite important for the fitness of the virus in the airway.”

“The virus that emerged in Wuhan was suboptimal in that respect, so it transmitted but perhaps not as well as it might. The alpha variant took one step towards improving that with a certain mutation, and the delta variant has built on that and taken a second step now, a bigger step, towards improving that feature,” said Prof. Barclay.

Data collected by U.K. scientists also indicate that the primary symptoms of infection with the delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 are different compared with those experienced upon infection with previous variants.

Thus, data from the ZOE Covid Symptom Study — whose scientific analysis is conducted by experts from King’s College London — suggest that the main symptoms of infection with the delta variant are headaches, a sore throat, and a runny nose.

This is a change from official information on COVID-19 symptoms — such as that provided by the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) — that lists fever, continuous cough, and loss of smell or taste as the main symptoms of the condition.

Prof. Tim Spector, co-founder of ZOE, warns that SARS-CoV-2 infections are “acting differently now, […] more like a bad cold,” which may tempt people to dismiss the symptoms.

“It might just feel like a bad cold or some funny ‘off’ feeling — but do stay at home and do get a test,” he urges.

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