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The Delta plus strain has caused a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in countries across the world. India also has reported multiple cases of the strain, first discovered in March. Earlier this week, the first death associated with the Delta Plus variant was reported in Madhya Pradesh.

Here's is all you need to know about the 'Variant of Concern'

What is the delta plus variant?

The Delta plus variant B.1.617.2.1/ (AY.1) is a result of a mutation in the B.1.617.2 or Delta variant. It is characterized by the K417N mutation in spike protein

According to a statement by the WHO, the spike protein aids the virus to gain receptor-mediated entry into human cells. K417N corresponds to the change of amino acid lysine (K) to asparagine (N) at the 417th position of spike protein. There are other Delta plus variants with other mutations also, however the AY.1 is the most well-known.

How dangerous is it?

The WHO has classified it as a Variant of Concern(VOC) due to its “significantly increased transmissibility” and a “growing number of countries reporting outbreaks associated with this variant”.

N.K. Arora, a member of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) told IANS that there was still very little knowledge about this new strain and the nature of subsequent Covid-19 outbreaks will depend on the new variants of the virus.

He also said that the transmission potential of Delta Plus variant so far seems low. "One more thing which is very clear about the Delta Plus variant is that its is very strong and it clings to the lungs. But it does not mean that transmission potential is very high."

Arora said that the first case of Delta Plus variant was detected in April this year and the research studies conducted on the strain so far has not suggested much on its effectiveness and level of transmission.

"We need to conduct more research to have more concrete results to augment our medical system for such patients. We have to understand that the emergence of new variants are not new things, variants will come with subsequent waves. What is more important to understand is the nature of the new variant, because its nature (transmission, effectiveness, etc) decides the overall situation of the Covid pandemic," he said.

How many cases in India?

According to the Union Health Ministry data, the variant has been detected in 48 samples in 10 states from the 45,000 samples sequenced so far in the country. The majority of cases were reported in Maharashtra - 20 cases, followed by Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh with 9 and 8 cases respectively.

Although properties of AY.1 are still being investigated, the variant frequency of AY.1 is currently low in India. Cases with AY.1 have been mostly reported from nine countries of Europe, Asia and America.

(With inputs from agencies)

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