New Delhi: While the Indian SARS-COV-2 Genetics Consortium (INSACOG) is trying to find out more about the nature of ‘Delta Plus‘ – a Covid-19 “variant of concern”, an expert maintains that regions that have already suffered from Delta outbreaks earlier are not likely have a major problem with the new variant in the subsequent wave.
In an exclusive interaction with IANS, Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology Director, Dr Anurag Agrawal, explained in detail about ‘Delta’ and ‘Delta plus’ Covid-19 viruses and their possible effect in the subsequent wave of pandemic.
“Regions that have already suffered from Delta outbreaks should not have a major problem with Delta plus, since I expect there to be reasonable cross-neutralisation of Delta plus by antibodies raised against Delta. Thus, I do not see an immediate threat or any reason to panic,” he said, adding that Delta plus is not rising faster than Delta in the previous month, so that is confirmation of sorts.
On what Delta variant is exactly and why it has become a “variant of concern” amid this Covid pandemic, he said that it Delta virus is a mutant variant of SARS-Cov-2 or B.1.617.2, which is known as Delta variant. It has mutations in its spike protein, which makes it more transmissible and able to evade immunity.
“It has already spread to 80 countries across the world. After India, now it is spreading fast in the UK, in some states in the US, in Singapore and southern China,” he added.
Agrawal explained that the Delta plus variant of Covid-19 is a mutation of Delta variant, adding when Delta variant develops additional mutations of possible importance, it is called Delta plus.
“However, this is not a Delta/Beta hybrid, but a case of convergent evolution where mutations develop independently. We can also call it AY.1 or AY.2,” he clarified.
On the possibility of third wave of Covid-19 pandemic as has already predicted by the Union Health Ministry and the possibility of effect of Delta plus variant during the period, Agrawal said: “At present, everyone want to know when there will be the next surge, but I don’t think it will come anytime soon as the Delta variant caused this surge across the country. Majority of people will have immunity against it right now. So while I expect localised outbreaks, I don’t expect a big national wave anytime soon.”
He said any outbreak begins by infecting the most exposed or vulnerable population in an area and then spreads by infecting more and more people who are susceptible. It can be controlled only through following Covid appropriate behaviour strictly and vaccination, he stressed.
“Of course, if the virus mutates drastically to evade this immunity, and more importantly if people lower their guard as they did a few months back, there could certainly be another wave,” he said.
Asked how does mutation impact the efficacy of the vaccines, Agrawal contended that some mutations on the virus’s spike may not allow the antibodies developed after immunisation to bind to it. In such cases, the mutant can escape the immunity and cause disease. However, the fact has emerged that so far, available vaccines are efficient to prevent severe disease by mutants but have reduced effectiveness in preventing infection.