New Delhi: The highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19, first found in India, has now mutated further to form the 'Delta Plus' or 'AY.1' variant. As some of the states witness new cases of the Delta Plus, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Tuesday (June 22, 2021) labelled it as a 'Variant of Concern'.
Based on the recent findings of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia (INSACOG), the Union Health Ministry has alerted and advised Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh regarding the Delta Plus variant of COVID-19 being found in some districts in these States.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has communicated to these three states that this variant has been found in genome sequenced samples from Ratnagiri and Jalgaon districts of Maharashtra, Palakkad and Pathanamthitta districts of Kerala and Bhopal and Shivpuri districts of Madhya Pradesh.
The INSACOG has also informed that the Delta Plus Variant is currently a Variant of Concern and has the following characteristics:
1. Increased transmissibility.
2. Stronger binding to receptors of lung cells.
3. Potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response.
As per the Union Health Secretary, over 22 cases of Delta Plus have been reported in India.
The United States, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, China and Russia are the other countries where the Delta Plus variant has been detected.
What is a Variant of Concern:
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), a SARS-CoV-2 variant that meets the definition of a Variant of Concern has been demonstrated to be associated with one or more of the following changes at a degree of global public health significance:
1. Increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; or
2. Increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or
3. Decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.
Currently, the WHO has labelled Alpha (first found in the United Kingdom), Beta (first reported in South Africa), Gamma (first found in Brazil) and Delta (first found in India) as Variants of Concern.