The Delta Plus variant called COVID-19 Is Dangerous But Seems Unlikely To Be A Game Changer
As you are already worried about Delta variant, first identified in India, was not relevant enough, now there is Delta Plus. The last variant of SARS-CoV-2 was announced by Indian health officials in late June, and labeled by the Indian government as a variant of concern.
As of June 24, only about 40 cases of Delta Plus infections have been reported by Indian health officials, based on the genetic sequence of the virus from positive patients. But given the ability of the original Delta strain to transmit more effectively from person to person, and to potentially cause more serious illnesses, health authorities are reasoning to raise concerns.
Delta Plus contains an additional mutation called K417N, in the part of the virus’s spike protein that binds to cells to initiate infection. But, says Dr. Ravindra Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases who has been genetically sequencing SARS-CoV-2 and studying its genetic evolution, “predicts that 417 is not not a pretty significant mutation.D Delta is pretty bad at it and doesn’t think 417 will change [it] so much so that they become dominant. ”
That’s because mutation 417 is not new. Gupta says he also found it in other major variants of the virus, including variant B.1.1.7, or Alpha, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, and variant B.1.351 or Beta reported for for the first time in South Africa. “We saw it coming in a few Alpha blocks and it didn’t go away or anything,” he says.
Health officials should not be distracted by Delta Plus and lose their focus on the original Delta, which is quite dangerous especially when only about 22% of the world has received at least one dose of the most common two-dose vaccines. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during the White House Briefing on June 22 that the Delta variant is the “biggest threat” in the world’s efforts to contain COVID-19. However, he noted that health officials already have the most powerful weapon to fight against this variant: vaccines.
Gupta’s lab studied how antibodies generated after natural infection or the immunity provided by vaccines can protect against the Delta variant, and found that protection is sufficient. However, it is lower than that generated against the Alpha variant. So it may only be a matter of time before vaccinated people need a boost of reinforcement with a new vaccine to enjoy long-term protection against Delta and Delta Plus.
“We should be concerned about the accumulation of mutations,” says Priyamvada Acharya, director of the structural biology division at Duke Human Vaccine Institute. “We have to be concerned about variants that come longer that are more transmissible and resilient [to immune antibodies]. Should we even panic? I do not think so. But it’s important to vaccinate people as soon as possible. ”
Over time, new variants of the virus may find ways to circumvent that protection, if the stable march of mutations that SARS-CoV-2 has developed so far is an indication. “Right now we are seeing evolution in real time,” says Sophie Gobeil, a fellow in the structural biology division at Acharya’s lab. “The virus is trying very hard to evade those vaccines.”
This means staying ahead of the virus could require more, and different vaccines. “I will say we need boosters for sure and I would even go so far as to say that boosters will not be the same [vaccines] we will get it now, “says Acharya.” From what we see, the virus will probably bypass the vaccines at some point and we will need updated vaccines. “