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The Delta+ Variant: A Variant of Concern

So far the pandemic has killed more than 4 million people across the earth. In India, there is a total of 3.04Cr cases from which 2.94Cr people have recovered. There have been 3.98 lakh deaths in India alone with thousands of them being reported. The coronavirus has created an unprecedented threatening situation. The virus has already created so much havoc in the world and now the Delta and Delta+ variant is an add-on to the suffering of the nation. When a virus replicates or makes copies of itself, it results in some changes in the characteristics of the copies. These changes are called mutations. A virus with two or more mutations is called a variant of the original virus. The variant can be weak or strong.

The first case of Corona Virus with the delta variant was found in Maharashtra back in October 2020. The Delta variant was majorly responsible for the peak of cases in the month of April-May that caused the second wave. The second wave took a massive toll on people’s lives and well-being. While the country returns in a state of normalcy and while the cases steadily continue to decline, the Delta+ variant is ready to set havoc in the nation as they are signaling towards the third wave.

Experts say that the new variant may defeat the vaccines, antibodies and weaken our immunity against the infection. The Delta+ variant is a parent variant of the Delta variant which is far more dangerous and life-threatening than the previous variant. The Delta variant was identified in Maharashtra back in October 2020 and is now in 85 countries. The Delta+ variant has been declared a variant of concern by the World Health Organization. It has done so because the Delta variant is 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant which was first identified in the UK. The Delta+ variant is a super spreader variant that is worrisome.

The Delta+ variant has the feature that enables escape from the immune system. It is more evasive than any other variant. The Delta+ variant is more dangerous than the Beta variant which was first found in South Africa which was the worst until now.

The Delta+ variant also known as AY.1, spreads more easily and binds to the lung cells. This variant was first found in India in April 2021. It was first detected in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Now, a new case of the Delta+ variant has been found in Delhi-NCR. As of now, India is among one of the nine countries where the Delta+ variant has been identified. The variant has been detected in the US, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, China, and Russia.

On Friday, Maharashtra recorded its first death from the Delta+ variant. Madhya Pradesh has recorded 2 such deaths so far. The delta+ variant has spread to 12 states with the highest number of cases in Maharashtra. There are 22 cases of delta+ variant in Maharashtra, 9 in Tamil Nadu, 7 in Madhya Pradesh, 3 in Kerala, 2 in Punjab and Gujarat. There is one each case in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, and Haryana.

When it comes to the efficacy of the vaccines against the virus then both the Covishield and CoVaxin work against the Sars-Cov-2 variant- Alpha, Beta Gamma, and Delta, however, the Indian Council of Medical Research is examining the efficacy of the vaccines against the Delta+ variant, said director general Balram Bhargava on Friday. “Very recently we have cultured the delta plus variant, and now we are testing in the laboratory whether the vaccine is effective against the delta plus variant. We have enough data against alpha, beta, and delta… and we are doing the same laboratory tests on this variant that we did on others; it is called looking at the laboratory tests to check the vaccine effect. This is ongoing and we should have resulted in about seven to 10 days,” said Dr. Bhargava.

Why is the Delta+ Variant so dangerous?

The characteristic features which make the delta+ variant more dangerous and concerning than the previous variants are as follows:
• Increased Transmissibility
• Stronger binding to receptors of lung cells
• Potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response

The Delta+ variant is the collection of mutations that is accumulated in the spike protein by the variant. It is further covered by SARS-CoV-2 hence giving the virus its crown-like appearance. If a mutation gives the virus the required fitness protein, then the virus gets a reproductive advantage, hence giving the mutation the power of evolving independently all around the world.

The Delta, Delta+, and the Alpha variant are highly contagious as they all carry a mutation which is at the 681 of the spike protein. This is thought to be a game-changer that makes it easier for the SARS-CoV-2 to invade the host cell and spread.

There is a shred of evidence that the Delta+ variant can cause more severe diseases. In Scotland, the Delta variant caused about twice as many hospitalizations as the Alpha variant. The vaccines provide less protection against the Delta and Delta+ variants.

If the cases of the Delta+ variant continue to increase at an increasing pace then it will take no time for the third wave to arrive and create destruction. This time the third wave will be more dangerous than the second wave as it will target the children and will be caused by the Delta+ variant.
Everyone has to take the necessary precautions when they are out of their home. Everyone should avoid going to crowded places. Masks, Hand Sanitizers, and Gloves must be used when stepping out of your home.

Edited by Aishwarya Ingle

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