The highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19, discovered in India, has mutated further to form the ‘Delta Plus’ or ‘AY.1’ variant. As new Delta Plus cases emerge in some states, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare designated it as a ‘Variant of Concern’ on Tuesday (June 22, 2021).
Based on recent findings from the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG), the Union Health Ministry has alerted and advised Maharashtra, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh about the Delta Plus variant of COVID-19 found in some districts in these states.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan informed these three states that this variant was discovered in genome sequenced samples from Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri and Jalgaon districts, Kerala’s Palakkad and Pathanamthitta districts, and Madhya Pradesh’s Bhopal and Shivpuri districts.
The INSACOG also stated that the Delta Plus Variant is currently a Variant of Concern, with the following characteristics:
1. Enhanced transmissibility
2. Improved binding to lung cell receptors.
3. The possibility of a reduction in monoclonal antibody response.
Over 22 cases of Delta Plus have been reported in India, according to the Union Health Secretary.
The Delta Plus variant has also been found in the United States, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, China, and Russia.
What is a Variant of Concern:
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a SARS-CoV-2 variant that meets the definition of a Variant of Concern has been linked to one or more of the following changes with global public health implications:
1. An increase in transmissibility or a negative shift in COVID-19 epidemiology; or
2. An increase in virulence or a change in the clinical presentation of the disease; or
3. A reduction in the effectiveness of public health and social measures, as well as available diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics.
The WHO currently classifies Alpha (discovered in the United Kingdom), Beta (discovered in South Africa), Gamma (discovered in Brazil), and Delta (discovered in India) as Variants of Concern.