COVID-19 Delta Plus Variant: All You Need to Know

A new COVID-19 variant has mutated from the highly transmissible Delta or B.1.617.2 variant of SARS-CoV-2 to form the Delta Plus or AY.1 variant. Read all you need to know.

Created On: Jun 15, 2021 12:48 ISTModified On: Jun 15, 2021 12:48 IST

A new COVID-19 variant has mutated from the highly transmissible Delta or B.1.617.2 variant of SARS-CoV-2 to form the Delta Plus or AY.1 variant. The new variant Delta Plus has been found to be resistant against monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19.

The Delta or B.1.617.2 variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in India during October 2020 and was declared a Variant of Concern (VoC) by the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 11, 2021.

What is Delta Plus variant?

•Delta Plus or AY.1 is one of the emerging variants of Delta or B.1.617.2 variant of SARS-CoV-2.

•The new variant is characterized by the acquisition of K417N mutation, said Vinod Scaria, clinician and scientist, Delhi’s CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB).

•The mutant K417N is found in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. The spike protein enables the entry of the virus into the human cells.

•So far, 63 genomes of Delta (B.1.617.2) with the new K417N mutation have been detected on the global science initiative GISAID, as per Public Health England. In its latest report, as of June 7, the Delta plus variant was found in six genomes from India.

•“The variant frequency for K417N mutation is not much in India as of now. The sequences are mostly from Asia, America, and Europe,” said Mr Scaria.

Why is Delta or B.1.617.2 of SARS-CoV-2 a variant of concern?

•The Delta or B.1.617.2 variant of SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in India during October 2020 and was declared a Variant of Concern (VoC) by the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 11, 2021.

•The Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 has been found 60 per cent more transmissible than the Alpha or B.1.1.7 variant that first found in the UK. The infection transmission rate of Delta is relatively higher with a time frame ranging from 4.5 to 11.5 days.

•The Delta or B.1.617.2 variant has been largely found to be the cause behind the surge in COVID-19 cases during the second wave in India.

Delta plus or AY.1 variant found to be evading monoclonal antibody treatment

•The new variant Delta Plus has been found to be resistant against monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19. Mr Scaria noted that there has been evidence that the K417N mutation has been resistant to monoclonal antibodies Casirivimab and Imdevimab.

•The monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment for COVID-19 had recently received emergency use authorization in India from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization.

•Mr Scaria further explained that monoclonal antibodies are artificially created in a lab to act as antibodies to fight against the virus. The monoclonal antibodies Casirivimab and Imdevimab are targeted to neutralize the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and block the entry of the virus into human cells. However, the K417N mutation in the new variant has been found with the ability to escape the immune response.

Does evading antibody treatment mean higher virulence of Delta Plus variant?

•Immunologist Vineeta Bal, guest faculty at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, said the resistance to the antibody cocktail treatment is not indicative of higher virulence or severity of the disease.

Blood plasma of fully vaccinated individuals will be tested to study Delta plus variant

•“There is no cause of concern due to the new variant in India as of now,” said Pulmonologist and medical researcher Anurag Agrawal, the director of CSIR-IGIB.

•The researcher further added that the blood plasma of fully vaccinated individuals will be tested to study Delta plus variant and determine how able it is at escaping the immune system.

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