New Delhi: What is Delta Plus Variant? Should You be Worried? The Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, which was identified as the reason behind breakthrough infections in the deadly second wave of coronavirus in India, has further mutated to form the ‘Delta plus’ or ‘AY.1’ variant.Also Read - Covid Travel Update: Thailand Keen to Reduce Quarantine Period For International Travellers

On Tuesday, the Union Health Ministry categorised the Delta Plus variant of the novel coronavirus, so far detected in three states in the country, as a ‘variant of concern’ and directed states to take up immediate containment measures in clusters where the variant has been detected. Also Read - Great News! Kenya Reopens Borders For Travellers From India. Check Covid Guidelines Here

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said the Delta Plus variant has been detected in 22 samples across six districts in the country. “In India, Delta Plus variant has been detected in 22 samples. Sixteen of them have found in Jalgaon and Ratnagiri districts in Maharashtra; the remaining have been detected in Kerala (Palakkad and Pathanamthitta) and Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal and Shivpuri)… But we don’t want this to assume significant proportions.” Also Read - Canada May Resume Direct Passenger Flights From India From THIS Date

What is Delta Plus Variant?

World Health Organisation, last month, tagged B.1.617.2 strain as the ‘Delta’ variant of SARS-CoV-2. Now, the “Delta” variant has further mutated to form the ‘Delta plus’ or ‘AY.1’ variant. Well, according to the reports, the initial data suggests that the Delta plus variant shows signs of resistance against the monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment. This treatment for Covid-19 was recently authorised by the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO).

Recently, a scientist specialising in genomic sequencing, Bani Jolly said on Twitter, “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),” Jolly added.

Delta Plus Variant – A Cause of Concern in India?

Well, Public Health England, in its latest report on coronavirus variants, said the Delta plus variant was identified in six genomes from India as of June 7. The health agency has confirmed the presence of a total of 63 genomes of the Delta variant with the new K417N mutation.

Earlier, the scientists were of the view that there is no immediate cause for concern in India as the new COVID variant’s incidence in the country is still low. But now the Union Health Ministry has issued an advisory to the Chief Secretaries of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala, asking them to take up immediate containment measures.

Vinod Scaria, a scientist at Delhi-based CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), had earlier said in a tweet that, “One of the emerging variants is B.1.617.2.1 also known as AY.1 characterized by the acquisition of K417N mutation.”

He said that the formation of Delta plus variant was the result of a mutation in the spike protein of SARS-COV-2. It is the same spike protein which enables the virus to enter and infect human cells. However, he added, “The variant frequency for K417N is not much in India at this point in time. The sequences are mostly from Europe, Asia and America.”

According to outbreak.info, in fact, the sequences come from a number of countries across the globe other than India, such as the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Russia, Japan, Portugal, Poland, Turkey, Nepal and Switzerland.

Delta Plus Variant Resisting Monoclonal Antibody Treatment

“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,” said Dr Scaria.

The Health Ministry that is involved in genome sequencing, informed the Centre on Tuesday that the Delta Plus variant has three worrying characteristics: increased transmissibility; stronger binding in receptors of lung cells; and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response.

Plasma From Vaccinated People Should Be Tested Against The New COVID Variant

Director of CSIR-IGIB, pulmonologist Anurag Agarwal, and also a medical researcher, had earlier told news agency PTI that he is of the view that blood plasma from fully vaccinated individuals will have to be tested against the Delta plus variant to determine whether it shows any significant escape from the body’s immune response.

“Understanding this continued evolution is of great importance in mapping the evolutionary landscape of emerging variants. Largely, the virus has tried to optimise for transmission and immune escape by step-wise acquisition of new mutations,” PTI quoted Agarwal.

According to the recent developments, the Health Ministry has issued an advisory to the Chief Secretaries of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, and Kerala, asking them to take up immediate containment measures, and enhanced testing, tracking and vaccination in districts and clusters where the Delta Plus variant has been detected.