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Delta Plus: what is this new variant of concern?

by Ashima

Scientists in India fear that this new variant might trigger a third wave.

By Ashima Sethi

Medical officials from the United States, United Kingdom, and India have reported the circulation of a new variant of concern (VoC). Delta Plus is similar to the highly transmissible Delta variant that has swept through several countries including Thailand in the last few weeks, but it is a slightly different mutation and is reportedly spreading slower than its predecessor.

According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the original Delta variant, which is called the B.1.617.2.1 or AY.1 strain, is reportedly 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant (better known as the UK variant) that was detected earlier this year. It is believed to be the reason for India’s devastating second wave that is just beginning to ease now thanks to lockdown protocols, mass vaccinations, and international support.

Globally, 160 strains of the coronavirus have been sequenced, but scientists have voiced their concerns about this new Delta variant. According to health officials working with the Indian government, particularly those who are part of the nation’s genome sequencing body, Delta Plus boasts several distressing traits. It is more transmissible than most mutations and has stronger binding to the receptors of lung cells, which can result in a reduction in an antibody response, even for those who have received two doses of the vaccine.

As reported by CNN, Balram Bhargava, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research has said that the council should have data and results in seven to ten days about whether the vaccines are working against Delta Plus. Experts have since recommended that people remain cautious in the meantime.

So far, almost 200 cases have been found in 11 countries with numbers expected to rise. According to Indian Express, the Indian state of Maharashtra has already reported its first death due to this new variant. As a result, the state government has decided to impose stricter restrictions to curb the spread and other states are expected to follow shortly.

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