Delta Plus: While the US is grappling with the Delta variant, India is raising the alarm about a new COVID strain that has mutated from it
New Delhi – Doctors and epidemiologists are closely watching the rise of anotherVariant that has been detected in nearly a dozen countries, including the United States. Remember that the so-called Delta Plus variant – a mutation of the First discovered in India – could be more contagious and cause more serious health problems than other varieties. This prompted Indian officials this week to label it a “worrying variant”.
But while the rapid spread of the variant and India’s painful experience with the original Delta tribe have sounded the alarm in the vast nation, epidemiologists both home and abroad say a lot more data is needed before broader warnings are issued about Delta Plus globally.
Delta Plus cases are increasing rapidly in India, but the burden has also been seen in the US, UK, China, Japan, Russia, Portugal, Switzerland, and Poland.
On Tuesday, India identified Delta Plus (or B.1.617.2.1) as the official variant of the concern and urged three states – Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh – to increase vigilance and screening for the strain. More than 40 cases of Delta Plus have been found in these states to date. At least one of them was fatal in an unvaccinated patient.
A consortium of Indian laboratories involved in genome sequencing to identify and track the spread of different coronavirus variants told the government that Delta Plus appears to have three properties of concern: increased transmissibility; more ability to attack lung cells; and a potential decrease in the monoclonal antibody response – or simply put, a possible resistance to vaccines and immunity gained from previous infection.
However, experts warn that with numbers this low, far more data and research will be required to determine if the new variant is really any more daunting than the Delta variety. This variant is alreadyand elsewhere as it appears to spread much more easily than previous varieties.
While the vaccines used appear to be effective against the original Delta variant, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, told CBS Face the Nation that it will likely become the dominant source of new infections in the US and could lead to new outbreaks in the fall, with unvaccinated Americans most at risk.
Indian epidemiologist Dr. Lalit Kant, former head of the Indian Council of Medical Research, told CBS News that experts still “need to correlate the variant’s genomic data with clinical-epidemiological information” to determine the threat it poses. “There is too little data to say anything with certainty at this point in time.”
“We don’t have much reason to believe that [Delta Plus] is more dangerous than the original Delta, “Dr. Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at the Health Sciences Center at Louisiana State University, told CBS News’ partner network BBC News.” I would stay calm. I don’t think India or anyone else in the world has published or collected enough data to distinguish the risk of the so-called Delta Plus as more dangerous or worrying than the original Delta variant. ”
The epidemiologist Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan of the US Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) agreed that the focus should be on collecting more data on Delta Plus through “rapid sequencing and solid epidemiological research”. However, he cautioned that “anecdotal evidence suggests it is more transferable than what has been seen before”.
While the Indian government’s decision to label Delta Plus as a worrying variant may seem premature to many experts, it is likely based on the fact that the original Delta variant is believed to be the second wave of COVID-19 infections in India from April to May fueled. In that surge, up to 400,000 people were infected in the country, and for a while it was.
Whileand much of India has returned to a certain degree of normalcy as the lockdowns lifted and large crowds have returned to the streets and markets, experts are warning of a possible third wave within weeks.
India recently worked to speed up its vaccination program, but a large proportion of its 1.3 billion people, including all minors who are not yet eligible for vaccination, would still be vulnerable to another wave of infections.
The country is still reporting more than 50,000 cases and 1,000 deaths daily as it comes from the second wave, and the actual numbers could be much higher given the relatively low testing and confirmation rate of COVID-related deaths.
The fear is that the proliferation of Delta Plus or other new flavors could make things worse, and quickly. The government’s COVID-19 experts have insisted there is no need to panic, but, as Kamil told BBC News, the government “would rather overreact than appear flat later, as is the case with the Delta variant was “.
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