Delta Plus a resistant, highly virulent COVID-19 variant, caution experts

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has dubbed Delta Plus as a "variant of concern".

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Delta Plus a resistant, highly virulent COVID-19 variant, caution experts


Delta Plus, a mutation of the Delta COVID-19 variant, has emerged as both ‘Variant of Concern’ and ‘Variant of Interest’ and given its resistance and virulence, experts have cautioned people to be more careful for the next few months.

Delta Plus is a mutation of the Delta Covid-19 variant, or the B1.617.2 strain, which was first detected in India. Scientifically, Delta Plus is denoted as AY.1 variant, and, in the study cited by MoHFW statement, was found to affect the lungs "more strongly" and possibly reduce the ability of antibodies to neutralise it. The Union Health Ministry has dubbed Delta Plus as a "variant of concern" (VoC). In declaring so, the ministry cited an analysis by a consortium of genomic sequencing labs that purportedly found the mutated virus to spread more readily. Earlier, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had called Delta Plus a "variant of interest" (VoI), which denotes that the variant is being studied.

According to Dr Archana Dhawan Bajaj, Director Nurture IVF Clinic, New Delhi, the Delta plus variant is being referred to as ‘Variant of Concern’ due to several reasons. “It seems to be more resistant to the vaccination and the antibodies against this variant the neutralizing antibodies of first vaccination, seem to be nearly five times lower in people who have already been vaccinated, than the other variants, so it is a more effective variant and more resistant to medication and treatment. And it is more resistant to vaccinations so people who have been vaccinated can still be affected by this variant, and can continue to go on to get the clinical illness,” she said. 

“The other concern with Delta and Delta plus variants is that a post-infection to this variant, the course of the disease seems to be more virulent, there are more hospitalizations, there are more ICU admissions, and there is increased mortality and morbidity, for people who have been affected by this variant,” she explained.  

“Now as we all know that COVID virus is an RNA virus, and rapid mutations are the order of any RNA virus. So, we need to step up vaccination. Moreover vaccinating vaccinations specified clearly against variants like delta plus will have to be quickly synthesized or manufactured and rolled as soon as possible. If this variant is not controlled or it is not put under check this could lead to a very rapidly occurring and a very stormy third wave of the COVID pandemic,” Dr Bajaj warned.

India has witnessed an increase in the number of COVID cases due to the Delta Plus variant and most of the cases are from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The Centre has advised these states to focus on effective public health response measures.

Dr. Sushrut Ganpule, Consultant – Pulmonologist, Jupiter Hospital, Pune said, “Delta variant was responsible for the second wave of COVID-19 in India. It has created a great challenge in the management of such cases in hospitals. Similarly, the Delta Plus variant has also started rising in Maharashtra, as well as in India. As the transmissibility of Delta variant was high with an increased risk of hospitalization, a similar movement is expected from Delta plus variant as well.”

“The vaccine effectivity, as well as the effectivity of antibody cocktail, was less with Delta variant, the same can be foreseeable from the delta plus variant as well. It is of mandatory significance that we have to be very careful for the next couple of months. General masses need to continue following Covid appropriate behaviour like using the masks, maintain social distancing, and avoid any gatherings in large numbers,” he emphasized.

The COVID pandemic has been with us for over a year now. We are seeing the virus mutate and the latest variant that has come to light is the delta plus variant. The need of the hour also is to expand the genome sequencing effort. As of now what is known is that this variant has been detected in 3 states in India and is highly infectious. There are concerns that the next wave could be caused by it. Further, there are also concerns that this variant may escape treatment by the monoclonal antibodies.It also remains to be seen whether this variant escapes the immunity provided by infections and vaccination. It is imperative that we continue to follow covid appropriate behaviour and ensure vaccination of the eligible population. Lastly, it’s important to be cautious, but not panic says Dr Sumana Arora, Vice President, clinical services, Daytoday Health.

It is the Delta variant that is believed to be behind the second COVID-19 wave, which swept the country in April-May, and was at its peak during the two months. In the second wave, which has since subsided, the country registered record new COVID-19 days on several days, as well as daily fatalities due to the viral disease.

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