'Delta' Variant Of COVID-19 Mutates Into 'Delta Plus': 10 Points

New Delhi:
The ‘delta’ variant of COVID-19 – a version first detected in India – has evolved to form the ‘delta plus’ or AY.1 variant. Scientists say it has acquired a mutation associated with escaping immunity but stress there is “no cause for concern yet”.

Here are the top 10 points in this big story:

  1. The ‘delta plus’ variant is a mutated version of the more aggressive B.1.617.2 strain that drove the second wave of infections in India. It is characterised by the K417N mutation in the spike protein of the SARS-CoV2 virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.

  2. The spike protein is what helps the virus enter and infect human cells, and the K417N mutation has been associated with immune escape, or evasion, that leaves it less susceptible, or more immune, to the vaccine or any form of drug therapy.

  3. However, there is no cause for concern as reports of the new variant are still low and there is no indication, as yet, about the severity of the disease, Anurag Agrawal, Director of Delhi’s CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), told news agency PTI.

  4. He also said blood plasma from a number of fully vaccinated individuals would have to be tested against this variant to establish if it shows any significant level of immune escape.

  5. Vinod Scaria, another CSIR-IGIB scientist, said the K417N variant was more frequent in Europe, America and other Asian countries at this time. He also said travel histories were not immediately available, meaning it is unwise to assume how far it may have spread.

  6. The ‘delta plus’ variant is resistant to the monoclonal antibody cocktail recently authorised in India. These cocktails – Casirivimab and Imdevimab – are designed to block the virus from attaching to human cells and entering the body, and are similar to antibodies that the human body naturally produces to defend itself against the disease.

  7. However, Vineeta Bal, a guest faculty at Pune’s Institute of Science Education and Research, told PTI resistance to therapy did not indicate severity.

  8. She also said the quality and quantity of neutralising antibodies generated by an individual infected with the new variant is unlikely to be affected because of the mutation.

  9. According to Public Health England, 63 B.1.617.2 genomes with the K417N mutation have been identified so far. In its latest report – updated till last week – the health regulator said the variant was present in six genomes from India, and that there were 36 cases in the UK.

  10. Two of these were registered more than 14 days after the second vaccine dose, making them ‘breakthrough’, or post-vaccine infections.

With input from PTI


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