Mumbai: Already reeling under pressure from the devastating second coronavirus wave, the Union Health Ministry on Wednesday confirmed that around 40 cases of the new Delta Plus variant have been detected in India so far. The new variant has been classified as a variant of concern (VOC).
The cases of the Delta plus variant have been detected in Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, the Union Health Ministry said on Wednesday. The Delta Plus variant was formed due to a mutation in the Delta or B.1.617.2 variant, which was first identified in India. It was one of the drivers of the deadly second wave.
“As of now among the samples sequenced (45000+) in India, Delta Plus variant – AY.1 – has been observed sporadically in Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with around 40 cases identified so far and no significant increase in prevalence,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Centre has advised the three states to strengthen surveillance and take appropriate public health measures.
Following the detection of 'Delta Plus' variant in COVID patients in some parts of the country, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Institute of Virology (NIV) have decided to conduct a study to see if the new and more potent variant of coronavirus can be neutralised by the existing vaccines in India.
According to the government, Delta Plus cases have been found in Maharashtra (Ratnagiri and Jalgaon) Kerala (Palakkad and Pathanamthitta) and in Madhya Pradesh (Bhopal and Shivpuri). The study is likely to involve Covaxin and Covishield vaccines.
"The newly emerged Delta Plus variant has possible increased transmissibility, higher binding capacity to the lung cells and resistance to monoclonal antibody treatment. Looking at this scenario, Delta Plus variant could be a concern, and a high watch should be undertaken and containment of affected zones should be done to reduce the transmission," said Dr Pragya Yadav, head of the NIV's Maximum Containment Facility.
Asked whether existing vaccines can fight against the Delta Plus variant, she said that samples have been collected and a study is being carried out. "As per earlier data concerning Delta variant, neutralization was happening with the existing vaccines in India. Though neutralization has dropped, it's enough to protect against the Delta variant. The Delta Plus variant should also behave (in a similar manner). We are working in this direction. We have isolated this variant and we are going to conduct a study soon. We will come back with the study," she said.
Meanwhile, the Delta variant, identified for the first time in India, could account for 90% of new Covid cases in the European Union in the coming months, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Wednesday. It is very likely that the Delta variant will circulate extensively during the summer, particularly among younger individuals that are not targeted for vaccination," Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said in a statement. "The Delta variant is more transmissible than other circulating variants and we estimate that by the end of August it will represent 90 percent" of new cases in the EU, she added.
The ECDC estimates that the Delta variant (B.1.617.2), is 40 to 60 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7), first discovered in the UK, which is currently the predominant variant of the novel coronavirus circulating in the EU.