If you think the Delta variant of Covid-19 is fearsome, nature had just introduced you the Delta Plus variant.
Yesterday (3 August), South Korea has reported its first 2 cases of the new Delta Plus Covid-19 variant. The announcement was made by Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) as South Korea battles its 4th wave of infections nationwide.
The Delta Plus variant is a sub-lineage of the Delta variant and it is first detected in India in June 2021. It was reported that the Delta Plus variant has acquired the spike protein mutation called K417N, which is also found in the Beta variant first identified in South Africa.
However, the reports of Delta Plus cases around the world have been few so far. The countries which reported it’s presence includes United Kingdom (UK), Portugal and India.
What is Delta Plus variant?
Given that this new variant is only detected 2 months ago, there is much more to learn about it.
According to The Straits Times, the Delta Plus variant has been labelled a “variant of concern” by the Indian government following an announcement made on 22 June.
This comes after scientists working at the a consortium of genomic sequencing labs told the government they had found evidence suggesting the new variant is more transmissible, with stronger binding to lung cells and a potential resistance to treatment by monoclonal antibodies.
It is reported that the Delta Plus variant carries a K417N mutation which is associated with better immune-escape properties. It is believed that this variant will make vaccines less effective against it too.
In short, the emergence of K417N in the Delta variant, which is already a variant of concern made the situation more worrying as it becomes the globally dominant strain.
According to Indian scientists, the Delta Plus variant is highly transmissible, with strong binding to lung cells and potential resistance to treatment by monoclonal antibodies. However, more studies are required to determine if it is more dangerous than the original Delta variant.
Meanwhile, there are 2 reported lineages of the Delta Plus variant and they are Delta-AY1 and Delta-AY2, with Delta-AY1 being more prevalent globally.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), the strain of Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is being classified as a variant of interest if it has been identified to cause community transmission or multiple cases, or has been detected in multiple countries.
A variant of concern would show evidence of higher transmissibility and virulence, leading to more severe disease that requires hospitalisation and causes deaths.
Having said that, it is best to comply with the SOPs at all times and maintain physical distancing when in the public.