After the catastrophic second wave, the country is on the verge of entering a delicate phase where the risk of another wave is rising with the emergence of a new ‘Delta plus’ variant. Studies have revealed that mutations in the predominant Delta variant and its spike protein, makes the virus more transmissible and have the ability to evade the body’s immune response.
What makes the Delta plus variant so transmissible? Can it lead to the inevitable third wave in India?
Here is everything you need to know about the Delta plus variant:
What is Delta Plus Variant?
Scientists have already discovered 13 different mutants in the Delta variant lineage, but the presence of K417N mutation detected in some of the new cases indicates that the variant has evolved with strong spike protein. It means that the new variant has a greater capability to bind with a cell’s surface receptor, allowing virus to enter. As a result, mutation in the protein may strengthen the interaction, leading to higher risk of transmissibility.
As of now, there is no evidence available that indicates an increased transmissibility rate of Delta plus variant than its previous dominant strain. However, the concerns have been raised that it may re-infect the patients or can spread among the fully vaccinated people.
Is the Delta plus variant more deadly than the previous one?
Both Delta and Delta plus variants have been classified as ‘Variants of Concern (VoC)’ that determines that the new strain carries the risk of increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells, potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response and post vaccination immune escape. However, there is no study that reveals if the variant can cause severe illnesses among the patients.
In Maharashtra, even some fully vaccinated people have been detected with the Delta Plus variant, while other states are also witnessing a spike in COVID-19 cases of both Delta & Delta plus variants. As per experts, currently more people are vaccinated against the virus as compared to before the second wave and the community's response to the new variant from previous infection may not develop a serious or fatal illness.
Could Delta Plus be responsible for the third wave in India?
After some respite from the deadly second wave, the country is standing on the verge of potential third wave. Some believe that a surge in cases could be driven by the Delta plus variant that has created a sense of panic among the population. With emerging cases of covid-19 in some states of India, Delta plus might carry a slight possibility of infecting and spreading virus among people who were infected earlier in the pandemic, or have incomplete vaccine immunity.
In the second wave, the Delta variant was majorly responsible for the rapid spread of infection, uprooting the healthcare infrastructure of the entire country. In the past two months, the prevalence of Delta plus is comparatively lower than its parent Delta variant, and this low number cannot indicate whether this newly evolved variant can instigate the third wave or not. To curb its spread, it is mandatory to impose restrictions at populous regions followed by implementation of COVID-appropriate behavior among people. On a community level, people need to restrict the exposure of viruses as much as possible, so that it gives fewer opportunities to replicate and mutate. If the mutation of the virus increases to the point where it evades immunity, then it could certainly invite another wave of Covid-19 virus.
So far, all we know is that both Delta and Delta plus variants are the major cause of concern for the country. Since these variants possess characteristics of evading the immune system, there is a higher possibility of the infection spreading more rapidly than before. Taking preventive measures and getting fully vaccinated are the simplest ways to break the transmissibility chain in society.
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