The Delta plus variant, a new mutant version of the Delta strain first detected in India, has been found in three states in the country. As of Tuesday, 21 cases of the ‘Delta plus’ variant were reported in Maharashtra, 4 in Madhya Pradesh and 3 in Kerala. Health experts have warned that the Delta Plus may unleash a third wave in the coming months, as it could possibly circumvent the body’s immune system.
Experts in Maharashtra fear the new variant could trigger a third wave and warn that it could come earlier than predicted. The state, with the most reported cases of Delta+ variant is already preparing for a third wave.
Here’s what Centre said
The Union Health Ministry categorised the Delta Plus variant of Covid-19 as a ‘variant of concern’ and directed states to take up immediate containment measures in clusters where the variant has been detected.
In a three-point advisory, the Centre directed the states to take up immediate containment measures, enhanced testing, tracking and vaccination in districts and clusters where the Delta plus variant was found.
Samples of the infected persons are to be promptly sent to designated laboratories of INSACOG so that the clinical epidemiological correlations can be made, the government said. INSACOG, or Indian SARS-CoV-2 Consortium on Genomics, was set up to conduct genome sequencing of the coronavirus.
Why Should India be on Alert
Health experts have warned that the Delta Plus may unleash a third wave in the coming months, as it could possibly circumvent the body’s immune system. Experts in Maharashtra fear the new variant could trigger a third wave and warn that it could come earlier than predicted, NDTV said in a report.
“It is worrisome because we do not know enough about how it is going to behave from here. In the variants that we have seen, there have been some very different scenarios that have presented themselves,” Om Shrivastava, a member of the Maharashtra Task Force on Covid reportedly said.
“We know that the delta wave in other parts of the world is very infectious and it spreads very rapidly and it can affect a multitude of people within a very short period of time,” Dr Shrivastava added.
16 of the 22 cases of Delta Plus variant have been found in Ratnagiri and Jalgaon (Maharashtra) and some cases in Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, said Rajesh Bhushan, Union health secretary.
Advisories of Different Countries
Like the Delta variant, which has already been detected in 80 countries, Delta plus variant is highly infectious and fast-spreading. The Delta plus variant has been detected in nine countries besides India. These are - US, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, China and Russia.
Even though, only about 200 confirmed infections have been detected across the globe, of which 30 are in India, fears remain that the virus mutant may wreak havoc in the near future.
In UK, one of the countries where Delta plus variant has been detected, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned of a “rough winter" ahead. Cases of delta variant are already on rise in the country with the country reporting fresh surge of Covid-19 cases.
Vaccines Losing Effect Against Delta Plus Variant?
Scientists are yet to test the effectiveness of vaccines on the Delta Plus variant but Dr Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was quoted saying that vaccines do seem to be effective.
“The mRNA vaccine seems to be highly effective, about 88 percent against the Delta variant. The viral vector vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca also appear to be about 60 percent effective," he said. The vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech use mRNA technology.
However, some experts say that that Delta plus variety could evade vaccine or infection immunity. In an interview to The Wire, India’s top virologists Shahid Jameel said he fears the Delta plus mutation might be able to evade both immunity from vaccination as well as immunity conferred by earlier infections.
The report quoted Jameel as saying that this is because Delta plus not only has all the characteristics of the original Delta variant but, in addition, a mutation called K417N, originally found in the Beta variant in South Africa.
Jameel added that there’s reason to believe Delta plus variant is resistant to the new monoclonal antibody treatment, that was given to former US president Donald Trump and which had reported very good initial results.