August 5, 2021

The “Delta Plus” variant, a new viral threat in India

The Delta variant of the coronavirus worries the entire planet. But already, one of his mutants is creating panic in India. Called “Delta Plus” by the scientific community, it was first spotted in April in the state of Maharashtra, in the center of the country, where the Delta variant was originally discovered, in October 2020.

On Friday June 25, the authorities in Bombay, capital of Maharashtra, put the brakes on the deconfinement measures that were gradually being put in place since the beginning of the month, after a tragic second wave of Covid-19 in April and May. An 80-year-old man reached by the Delta Plus had died the day before in the Ratnagiri region, which adjoins the tourist state of Goa.

Read our decryption: What is known about Delta, the coronavirus variant that concerns scientists and authorities

“Non-essential” businesses are again required to keep the door closed on weekends, as soon as, locally, the positivity rate for screening tests, on average over seven days, exceeds 5%, or the rate of occupancy of oxygen-equipped hospital beds exceeds 40%. The Delta Plus variant has reportedly been identified at this stage in fifty-five patients in the subcontinent.

If it concerns the Indian authorities, it is because it presents on its Spike protein, the one which allows the coronavirus to enter human cells, the amino acid mutation K417N, previously observed on the Beta variant, originally identified in South Africa. “However, the Beta variant is known for its propensity to immune evasion”, indicates the Ministry of Health in Delhi. Clearly, Delta Plus is suspected of being more resistant to antibodies than the others, and in particular than its original Delta strain.

“Strict and targeted” measures

On Monday June 28, the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that the Delta Plus currently does not represent “Only a small fraction of the Delta sequences” identified by sequencing the coronavirus genome collected from people with the disease. While 85 countries now say they are affected by the Delta, eleven say they have found the Delta Plus on their territory: in a few dozen cases, India, therefore, but also the United States, the United Kingdom , Switzerland, Portugal and Japan; or, in negligible numbers, Poland, Nepal, Russia, Canada and Turkey.

“For now, Delta, like other variants considered to be of concern, presents a higher risk to public health because it has been shown to be more contagious”, adds the WHO, which is not the case with the Delta Plus. But in India, the Modi government does not hear it that way. Undoubtedly scalded by the denial he had shown in the face of the Delta variant during the first four months of 2021, thus letting a second wave of dramatic Covid-19 break out, he sounded the alarm on June 25, calling the Delta Over “Worrying” without waiting for the WHO to do so.

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