Coronavirus new variant: New ‘Delta plus’ variant in India, all you need to know about the new strain

While the country resuscitates back to normalcy, the Delta variant continues to wreak havoc not just in India, but also all around the world. Recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) categorised Delta variant as a ‘variant of concern’ (VOC), stating that it was more dominant than the Alpha variant, the COVID strain first detected in Kent, United Kingdom.

The Delta Variant, scientifically known as B.1.617.2, is said to have further mutated into a new strain called the ‘Delta plus’ or ‘AY.1’ variant. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

What is the new Delta plus variant?

Experts claim that the new Delta plus variant or AY.1 variant is characterised by the acquisition of K417N mutation.

In a tweet, Vinod Scaria, clinician and scientist at Delhi’s CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), said, “The mutation is in the spike protein of SARS-COV-2, which helps the virus enter and infect the human cells.” With regard to the new variant, Bani Jolly, a scientist who specialises in genomic sequencing, tweeted, “A small number of sequences of Delta (B.1.617.2) having spike mutation K417N can be found on GISAID. As of today, these sequences have been identified in genomes from 10 countries.”

“The sequences have recently been designated as lineage AY.1 (B.1.617.2.1), a sublineage of Delta, due to concerns about K417N being one of the mutations found in the Beta variant (B.1.351),” She added.

The UK Health officials have reported a total of 63 genomes of the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 that have the K417N mutation.

How concerning is the Delta plus variant for the Indian population?

he second wave of coronavirus is attributed to the Delta variant, which emerged in India last october. Now that the number of COVID-19 cases have started to decline, the new Delta variant strain, also known as Delta plus variant, has grabbed people’s attention.

However, according to Dr. Scaria, “The variant frequency for K417N is not much in India at this point in time. The sequences are mostly from Europe, Asia and America.”

Additionally, Bani Jolly said, “Looking at the large (T95I) cluster, it seems like AY.1 variant has arisen independently a number of times and could be more prevalent than observed in countries with limited genomic surveillance.”

How does it respond to COVID treatments?

Monoclonal antibody therapy is being used to treat patients with mild to moderate COVID infection and have chances of developing severe infection. Monoclonal antibodies are clones of an antibody that targets one specific antigen. They are artificially created in the laboratory and bind to the spike protein of the SARs-COV-2 virus, blocking the entry to the healthy cells and protecting the body from the same.

However, scientists have said that the mutation in the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 can resist monoclonal antibody therapy used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Scaria said, “One important point to consider regarding K417N is evidence suggesting resistance to monoclonal antibodies Casirivimab and Imdevimab. The antibody cocktail has accidentally received an EUA from the Drug Controller General in India.”

Is the Delta plus variant transmissible?

While the new variant is said to resist monoclonal antibodies, Immunologist Vineeta Bal, a guest faculty at Pune’s Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, has said that it does not determine whether or not the new strain is more infectious or transmissible.

In an interview with the PTI, she said, “How transmissible this new variant is will be a crucial factor to determine its rapid spread or otherwise.”

“Thus, in individuals catching infection with the new variant, it may not be a matter worth worrying about,” she added.

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