COVID-19: Delta plus variant found in 20 samples across Maharashtra; none in Mumbai

The Delta plus variant has been found in the 20 samples that were collected from five districts of the state and sent for genome sequencing, said a senior health official from the state health department. However, none of the samples from Mumbai had shown the presence of the variant. The exercise was undertaken to determine whether the Delta plus variant was dominant or scattered in the state.

Confirming the development, senior health officials from the state health department said samples collected from Navi Mumbai, Palghar, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and Jalgaon districts have shown the presence of the Delta-plus variant. “Till date 20 samples have shown Delta plus variant. However for final confirmation, samples have been sent to NIV,” said an official.

Dr Tatyarao Lahane, Head, Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER),confirmed that seven Delta-plus variants had been found in three districts of Maharashtra. However, for confirmation, they had sent samples to the NIV for genome sequencing and a report is expected by June 23 (Wednesday). “We have found the Delta variant and every week, we send samples to the NIV. But there are claims that the Delta plus variant has been discovered in Navi Mumbai, Palghar and Ratnagiri, following which samples have been sent for genome sequencing. We are awaiting final reports,” he said.

Experts in Maharashtra have warned that the Delta plus variant might be the reason behind the third wave of Covid-19 and could cause the active caseload to shoot up to eight lakhs, 10 per cent of which, could be children

The report said the mutation in the virus’s spike protein facilitated its entry into human host cells. While the new strain has a better “immune-escaping mechanism”, it is being researched - its transmissibility, virulence and whether the mutant is resistant to the monoclonal antibody cocktail treatment.

Dr Sanghamitra Gawde, civil surgeon, Ratnagiri, said there were no such variants found in their districts. But they were taking all necessary precautions and have created containment zones, considering that the positivity rate was around 20 per cent until mid-June. “We didn’t have any confirmation that a Delta plus variant had been found and it will be too early to comment, as samples have been sent for analysis. Moreover, we are taking precautionary measures, as our infections and positivity rate was high,” said Dr Gawde.

The Delta variant, known as B.1.617.2, is gaining ground around the world and is said to have contributed to the country’s recent surge. Sometimes we can see a mutation in the mutated variant that is called a double mutation.

Dr Chandrashekhar T, Chief Intensivist, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi, said, to begin with, it is important to know what variants of concern (VOC) are. A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease, significant reduction in neutralisation by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures is termed as a VOC.

“The Delta variant was under investigation/Variant of Interest (VOI) even in the first wave, as it was termed a variant of concern by the WHO. Therefore, WHO, ICMR, and other government agencies in India are closely watching its mutations. Therefore, the Delta virus falls under the category of a variant of concern as it is more transmittable, more virulent, and causes many complications,” he said.

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