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Delta plus: what is known about the new variant of covid-19 already detected in 10 countries

» ProSalud

India classified a new variant of coronavirus, the so-called delta plus, as “of concern”, although according to experts it is still too early to create alarm about it.

A mutation moves from a “variant of interest” to a “variant of concern” (VOC) when it shows evidence that it meets at least one of several criteria: easy transmission, provoke a more serious illness, reduced neutralization by antibodies or reduction in the effectiveness of treatments and vaccines.

India's health ministry says several studies showed that delta plus, also known as AY.1, spreads more quickly, binds more easily to lung cells and is potentially resistant to monoclonal antibody therapy, a potent intravenous infusion of antibodies to neutralize the virus.

It is related to delta, a variant already considered “of concern” that was first identified in India last year and is believed to have fueled the deadly second wave of infections in the summer.

The Health Ministry says the delta plus variant, first found in India in April, was detected in around 40 samples from six districts in three states: Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.

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At least 16 of these samples were found in Maharashtra, one of the states most affected by the pandemic.

Delta plus has also been found in nine other countries (United States, United Kingdom, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, Russia and China) compared to the original highly contagious delta strain, which has now spread to 80 countries.

Viruses mutate all the time and most changes have no consequences. Some even harm the virus.

But others can make the disease more infectious or threatening, and these mutations are the ones that tend to dominate.

Regarding this in particular, the main virologists have questioned whether it is classified as “of concern”, arguing that it is still there is no data that prove the variant is more infectious or leads to more severe illness compared to others.

“There is no information yet to support the claim that this is a variant of concern,” said Gagandeep Kang, a virologist and the first Indian woman to be elected to the Royal Society of London.

“You need biological and clinical information to consider whether it really is a variant of concern.”

This means India needs more data to determine whether the variant is neutralized by antibodies generated by available vaccines or by infection with another coronavirus variant.

Additionally, much more information is required about increased transmissibility, diagnostic failures (routine testing does not detect the variant) as well as to assess whether the variant is causing more severe disease.

“You need to study hundreds of patients who have this condition from this variant and find out if they are at higher risk for more severe disease than with the previous variant,” Kang said.

The delta plus variant contains a additional mutation called K417N in the coronavirus spike protein, which has been found in the beta and gamma variants, first detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively (Beta was linked to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths during the first wave of infections in South Africa, while gamma was estimated to be highly transmissible).

Even with 166 examples of delta plus shared in GISAID, an open-sharing global database, “we don't have much reason to believe that this is more dangerous than the original delta,” said Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at the Center for Health Sciences. from Louisiana State University in Shreveport, USA.


“The Delta plus could have a slight advantage when it comes to infecting and spreading among people who were infected earlier during the pandemic or who have weak or incomplete immunity provided by the vaccine,” Kamil tells the BBC.

I would stay calm. “I do not believe that India or anyone else in the world has published or accumulated enough data to distinguish the risk of the so-called delta plus as more dangerous or worrying than the original delta variant.”


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Yair Ramirez
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