Scientists detect new ‘Delta Plus’ Coronavirus variant, further research underway
Indian scientists have said that the high transmissible Delta variant of Sars-CoV-2 (COVID-19 virus) has mutated further into a ‘Delta Plus or ‘AY.1’ variant. However, they have affirmed that the prevalence of the new variant in India is still relatively low, adding that there is no immediate matter of concern.
Last month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially assigned the name ‘Delta’ to the B.1.617.2 COVID-19 virus strain which was discovered in India in October 2020. The highly infectious COVID-19 strain has increased the risk of infection across various countries at a time when governments are working on easing restrictions. The Delta variant resulted in a deteriorating second wave of the pandemic in India which crippled the country’s healthcare infrastructure.
According to Indian scientists, the newly-discovered ‘Delta Plus’ variant appears to be resistant to the recently-authorized monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19 such as Casirivimab and Imdevimab. Earlier this month, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation approved emergency use of the monoclonal antibody treatment that has emerged as a game-changer in generating effective results in treating COVID-19 patients in India.
Scientists added that the B.1.617.2.1 variant is characterised by the acquisition of K417N mutation, which is in the spike protein of Sars-CoV-2. It facilitates the entry of the virus into the body to infect the human cells. Notably, the K417N mutation was previously discovered in the Beta variant of the COVID-19 virus in South Africa.
At least five Indian labs have submitted their data on the mutated variant of COVID-19 to the global repository GISAID in the past two months. On June 7, Public Health England (PHE) highlighted that it has received data on 63 genomes of the ‘Delta Plus’ variant, out of which six instances were found in India, particularly from the states of Telangana, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh.
Reportedly, the earliest sequence of this genome was discovered in Europe in late March 2021. Noting that the already-present Delta variant has become increasingly prevalent in India, health specialists have called for further sequencing’Delta Plus’ to understand the degree of its presence in the country.
Meanwhile, Hyderabad-based CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and ICMR-National Institute of Virology are carrying out laboratory tests to ascertain the efficacy of Covaxin and Covishield COVID-19 vaccines against the new mutated variants of the virus.
Amid this development, a number of states including Delhi and Maharashtra have begun to lift their curfew measures and reopen economic activities after witnessing a fall in the number of infected cases.