Delta Plus

Introduction

In May 2021, when the Second Wave was at its peak, the Union Health Ministry informed that the Third wave was inevitable. And just a few weeks after, when India was recovering back to normalcy in COVID-19 cases following a deadly second wave that saw cases even touching the 4-lakh mark per day and collapsed the Medical Infrastructure of India, this new Delta plus variant was founded. The central government has already warned against the Delta Plus variant, a new mutant version of the Delta strain of Covid first detected in India, and has called it a “variant of concern” because of its increased transmissibility and resistance to most drugs and therapies.

Experts in Maharashtra, one of the worst-hit states during the first and second waves, said in the month of June when the new variant was first reported that owing to the new variant, the third wave may come earlier than predicted. The Experts fear the new variant could potentially trigger the third wave. “It is worrisome because we do not know enough about how it is going to behave from here,” Om Shrivastava, a member of the Maharashtra Task Force on COVID, told NDTV.

As per the Scientists, if appropriate Covid-19 behaviour is not followed, India will witness the Third Wave in October-November 2021.

What is Delta Plus Variant and why it has been considered as VoC (Variant of Concern)?

The new strain ‘Delta Plus’ or AY.1, which is scientifically named as B.1.617.2.1, has a K417N mutation in its spike protein of the RNA virus. It is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant first detected in India and has acquired the spike protein mutation called K417N which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa. In fact, the South African infectious disease specialists believe that the country is already experiencing a third wave of infection due to the Delta variant.

It is a result of a mutation in the already existing coronavirus variant ‘Delta’ (B.1.617.2), which was one of the fatal reasons for infecting millions and leading to the deaths of thousands during the unprecedented second wave of COVID-19 in India. As this ‘Delta Plus’ variant is almost new for the scientists, they are still processing to figure out more information on its characteristics and also about its affects that how much it can be deadly for the human race. According to recent data of World Health Organization (WHO), the variant is as ‘VoC’ or ‘Variant of Concern’ because of the following factors –

  1. Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or
  2. Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or
  3. Decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.

Moreover, the Delta Plus is capable of strongly binding itself with the receptors of lung cells, and it also showcases resistance against monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19.

In the case of Delta Plus, the aforementioned mutation in its spike protein has made it more transmissible and infectious as compared to its predecessor, the Delta variant.

Owing to these three factors, it has been categorised as a Variant of Concern in India.

*** you can also check – https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/how-worrying-is-delta-plus-sars-cov2-coronavirus-7380124/ for more information.

Origin

As per the reports, the Delta plus variant was first detected in Europe in March 2021 and now it has become an active threat to several countries across the globe like the USA, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, China, Russia and including India also. The variant, called “Delta Plus” in India, was first reported in a Public Health England bulletin on June 11.

In India, cases of the new variant have been found in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri and Jalgaon; Kerala’s Palakkad and Pathanamthitta, and in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal and Shivpuri.

Cases have been found as in June

  1. As of June 16, at least 197 cases had been found from 11 countries — Britain (36), Canada (1), India (8), Japan (15), Nepal (3), Poland (9), Portugal (22), Russia (1), Switzerland (18), Turkey (1), the United States (83).
  2. India said, on Wednesday, around 40 cases of the variant have been observed in the states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with “no significant increase in prevalence”. The earliest case in India is from a sample taken on April 5.
  3. Britain said its first 5 cases were sequenced on April 26 and they were contacts of individuals who had travelled from, or transited through, Nepal and Turkey.
  4. No deaths were reported among the UK and Indian cases.

Common symptoms of Delta Plus Variant

According to India’s virologists, Delta Plus variant carries symptoms of the Delta variant and the beta variant. Some of these symptoms include:

  1. Cough
  2. Diarrhoea
  3. Fever
  4. Headache
  5. Skin rash
  6. Discolouration of fingers and toes
  7. Chest pain
  8. Shortness of breath.

Apart from these, other symptoms listed by specialists and attributed to the Delta Plus variant include – Stomach ache, Nausea, Appetite loss etc.

Measures that the Government taking to control the spread of this New Variant

India has already prepared for the Third Wave and it is being said that the situation will be far better than the Second Wave as the Health Officials expect because –

  1. Health Infrastructure has been improved.
  2. India presently has more than 18.5 Covid beds, 8 Lakh isolation beds and 1.7 beds with oxygen support. More than 50,000 ICU beds have also been added.
  3. Prior to the Pandemic, India had 8 ventilator suppliers with annual capacity of 3,360 ventilators whereas at present 9 more suppliers have been added with annual capacity of supplying more than 4 Lakh ventilators.
  4. At present India has 2,463 Testing labs with a combined capacity of testing more than 15 Lakh samples daily.
  5. Second Wave was due to a mutated variant and prior to it India had an extremely poor record of Genome Sequencing, but currently it’s being carried out at a breakneck speed by the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG) laboratories across the country in order to detect the Delta Plus variant. As per reports, a total of 45,000 samples have been sequenced by the INSACOG so far.

Moreover, Rajasthan becomes the country’s first state which has its own Genome Sequencing Lab.

  • The authorities have also directed the respective governments to undertake immediate containment measures and ramp-up testing, tracking and vaccination, especially in districts where the variant has been found.

Commonly Asked Question

  1. Are COVID vaccines effective against the new Delta Plus variant?

Several studies have proved that the Covid vaccines are affective against the previously diagnosed Delta Variant, but it is yet to prove its effectiveness on the new Delta Plus Variant.

  1. Can the Delta Plus variant impact fully vaccinated individuals?

It is reported that the first COVID-19 Delta Plus variant case in Rajasthan was detected in a 65-year-old woman who was fully vaccinated. The woman recovered from COVID-19 and had also received both her vaccine doses. However, the sample of the woman sent for genome sequencing to the Pune-based National Institute of Virology detected the Delta Plus variant. She was asymptomatic and has fully recovered from a COVID-19 infection.

Therefore, it is important to note that the Delta Plus variant can impact fully vaccinated individuals and COVID-recovered people as well but may be of reduced severity in them.

Conclusion

The ongoing pandemic has stopped the whole world since its beginning and these new variants of the deadly Covid-19 continuously threatens the human race and prevents humanity’s emergence. But it’s not in anyone’s hand to get the world back to normal, what we the people can do is that we have to be aware and follow all the COVID appropriate behaviour, because it is the only way to prevent the spread of the virus, especially in the wake of such deadly new variants.

While the Delta Plus variant is touted to be more transmissible and spreads faster than the earlier variants, wearing double masks, maintaining social distance, practicing respiratory hygiene, and washing or sanitizing hands regularly is of utmost importance. Also, Rapid Vaccination, Strong Tracing & Containment can help mitigate the impact of this new variant.

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