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As the number of COVID-19 cases in the country decline, the new strain of the Delta variant, which is also known as the Delta Plus variant, has been detected in many parts of the country, becoming a major source of concern for health officials and the government. With several states lifting their border restrictions and easing their lockdown guidelines, the new variant only opens up the possibility of a third COVID wave.
Experts claim that the new Delta plus variant or AY.1 variant is characterised by the acquisition of K417N mutation.
It is a mutation of the Delta variant that drove India’s second wave of coronavirus. The Delta Plus variant is therefore technically named B.1.617.2.1 or AY.1.
In a tweet, Vinod Scaria, clinician and scientist at Delhi’s CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), said, “The mutation is in the spike protein of SARS-COV-2, which helps the virus enter and infect the human cells.”
The variant was first detected in Europe in March this year but it was brought to the notice of the public on June 13.

Read more: Coronavirus Delta variant: How effective are COVID-19 vaccines against the newest Delta variant?

In India, the government has officially said that the Delta Plus variant of the coronavirus is a ‘variant of concern’ (VoC), which means it is more transmissible, has a stronger binding to receptors of lung cells, and potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response.
As of now, India is one of the nine countries where the Delta Plus variant has been detected. Reportedly, the variant has been detected in the US, UK, Portugal, Switzerland, Japan, Poland, Nepal, China and Russia.

Read more: Coronavirus new variant: New ‘Delta plus’ variant in India, all you need to know about the new strain

When it comes to an infectious illness, health experts are primarily concerned about the transmissibility rate. Given that many cases of Delta Plus variant have been identified in parts of India, many were concerned whether or not the new strain can dodge immunity provided by both vaccine and earlier infection.
However, according to Prof Shahid Jameel, former INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia) member and one of the leading virologists in the country, currently, there is no solid evidence to suggest that the new variant is more transmissible than the others.
Monoclonal antibody therapy is being used to treat patients with mild to moderate COVID infection and have chances of developing severe infection. Monoclonal antibodies are clones of an antibody that targets one specific antigen. They are artificially created in the laboratory and bind to the spike protein of the SARs-COV-2 virus, blocking the entry to the healthy cells and protecting the body from the same.
However, scientists have said that the mutation in the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 can resist monoclonal antibody therapy used in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Read more: Coronavirus: AIIMS study claims Delta variant is highly infectious even for those who are vaccinated

The second wave of coronavirus is attributed to the Delta variant, which emerged in India last October. Now that the number of COVID-19 cases have started to decline, cases of Delta Plus variant have been found in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri and Jalgaon, Kerala’s Palakkad and Pathanamthitta, and in Bhopal and Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh, the government said in its advisory.
Health professionals and experts have addressed their concern and fear that the new variant may trigger a possible third wave. While much is still under speculation, the state of Maharashtra, which has reported most of these Delta Plus cases, is already preparing for a third wave.
On Tuesday, the government said that the Delta Plus variant has been detected in about 22 cases in Maharashtra, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh.
The Union Ministry has warned the three states and has advised, “The Chief Secretaries of the states have been advised to take up immediate containment measures in these districts and clusters, as identified by INSACOG (Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomic Consortia), including preventing crowds and intermingling of people, widespread testing, prompt tracing as well as vaccine coverage on priority basis.”
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