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Delta plus variant reclassified as 'variant of concern', experts sanguine for now

By Alexander Bueso

Date: Wednesday 23 Jun 2021

Delta plus variant reclassified as 'variant of concern', experts sanguine for now

(Sharecast News) - India's Health Ministry has upgraded a new variant of Covid-19 dubbed Delta plus to a "variant of concern".
Nevertheless, several experts believe it is too soon to draw any conclusions.

The ministry said that the new variant, also known as AY.1, spreads with greater ease, binds more easily to lung cells and might be resistant to monoclonal antibody therapies.

AY.1 was first detected in April in India and is now present in three states - Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh - with roughly 40 samples having been collected.

It had also been found in nine other countries, Portugal, China, Japan, Nepal, Poland, Russia, Switzerland, UK and US.

For a Covid-19 variant to be considered a "variant of concern", it must meet at least one of four conditions: easier transmission, more severe illness, reduced neutralisation by antibodies or lower effectiveness of treatments and vaccines.

Yet in remarks to the BBC, Dr Gagandeep Kang, a virologist and fellow of the Royal Society of London, said "there is now data yet to support the variant of concern claim".

"You need biological and clinical information in order to consider whether it is truly a variant of concern."

Dr Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University, was of much the same view, telling the BBC that: "we don't have much reason to believe this is any more dangerous than the original Delta."

"I would keep calm. I don't think India or anyone else in the world has released or accumulated enough data to distinguish the risk from the so-called Delta plus as being more dangerous or concerning than the original Delta variant."

The Delta plus variant includes one additional mutation on the so-called spike protein called K417N.

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