The World Health Organization (WHO) on May 11, 2021, declared the Delta or B.1.617.2 variant of SARS-CoV-2 as a Variant of Concern (VoC). The Delta variant was first detected in India in October 2020.
The Delta variant has been largely responsible for fueling the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in India. In 2021, the highly transmissible Delta or B.1.617.2 variant of SARS-CoV-2 mutated into a new COVID-19 variant, Delta Plus or AY.1 variant.
What is Delta Plus variant of SARS-CoV-2?
• Delta Plus or AY.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2 is the new COVID-19 variant that mutated from the Delta variant. The Delta Plus variant is characterized by the mutant K417N found in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. The Delta Plus variant has been found to be resistant to monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19.
• Delta Plus variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in Europe in March 2021.
What is Delta variant?
• The Delta or B.1.617.2 variant of SARS-CoV-2, first detected in India has been declared as a Variant of Concern (VoC) by the World Health Organization (WHO). Maharashtra reported the first samples of the Delta variant.
• Since then, WHO has reported the emergence of the Delta variant across 75 countries, of which the UK has shown a sharp rise in Delta variant infection cases from 10 per cent to 30 per cent in the past week.
Is Delta variant more dangerous than previous variants?
• Experts have found the Delta variant to be more transmissible than the Alpha variant that was first detected in the UK.
• Experts had stated the transmissibility rate of the Alpha variant at around 43 to 90 per cent more than the previous variants. However, the Delta variant has been found to be 40 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha variant.
Delta variant: Symptoms
• Experts state the symptoms in case of infection caused by the Delta variant are fever, headache, sore throat, and runny nose. Loss of smell and cough are not common symptoms.
• As per experts, the Delta variant causes a cluster of symptoms that were not seen earlier in COVID-19 infection cases. Compared to previous variants, patients infected with the Delta variant deteriorate faster and become sicker.
Delta variant: Hospitalization rate
• In cases of infection caused by the Delta variant, the risk of hospitalization rate has been found to be two times more compared to the Alpha variant, as per a Scottish study published in The Lancet.
• COVID-19 experts also state that the Delta variant poses a greater risk of hospitalization.
Delta variant: Vaccine Protection
• The Delta Plus variant has been found to be resistant against the monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19.
• As per The Lancet study, vaccines against the Delta variant have been found to be less effective, particularly only one dose.
• COVID-19 experts are also concerned that vaccines such as COVISHIELD in India and AstraZeneca’s vaccine would only 60 per cent effective against the Delta variant.
Delta vs Delta Plus variant
• Studies are being conducted to assess the Delta Plus variant. The blood plasma of fully vaccinated individuals will be tested to determine how able is the Delta Plus variant at escaping the immune system.
• However, experts state that any successful mutation increases the threat level and adaptability of a virus. If the Delta Plus variant emerges, it will carry along all the threats of the Delta variant as explained above. This means, increased resistance to COVID-19 vaccines, wider immune escape, increased transmissibility, severe illness, and greater hospitalization risk.