With the Delta variant having stoked the second wave pandemic in the country, including Odisha, now there is a big concern over its mutated version Delta AY.1 or Delta Plus. As of today, the total Delta plus cases in the country have inched up to touch around 20, reveals data with Central Health organisations.
Like with the Delta variant, Maharashtra has reported a maximum of 8 cases, mostly in the Ratnagiri district. However, cases have also been detected from states like Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal.
Any Impact On Odisha?
The data with GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing Influenza Data) revealed how the Delta variant has made its way to Odisha from the three states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh. While the variant had spread to Odisha from Maharashtra during the last week of February, the spread from Chhattisgarh took place in March first week. And from Tamil Nadu, the spread happened from around mid-April.
Therefore, there is every possibility of the variant finding its way to Odisha. Hence the concern among State health authorities.
Delta Plus Not A Variant of Concern?
As per the US-based Centre for Disease Prevention And Control (CDC), a variant will be decided as a variant of concern when the following conditions are met.
"A variant for which there is evidence of an increase in transmissibility, more severe disease (e.g., increased hospitalizations or deaths), a significant reduction in neutralization by antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines, or diagnostic detection failures."
A look at the genome sequencing data from Maharashtra shows around 8 cases of Delta plus have been identified from Ratnagiri district. The weekly test positive rate (TPR) in the district has been 8.77 per cent for the week ended on 20 June.
Only one district from Maharashtra has a weekly positive rate of 12.77 per cent - the Kolhapur. But the fact needs mentioning is this district shares its border with Ratnagiri, though to date Delta plus has not been identified in Kolhapur. An analysis shows the districts adjacent to Ratnagiri are still carrying the highest virus burden in the State.
But the respite here is the weekly TPR is declining in Ratnagiri and its adjoining districts.
In contrast, when the second wave's villain of the piece, the Delta variant, was detected in Amravati district, the weekly TPR there was on the rise.
This is the precise reason, why to date Delta plus has not been categorised as a variant of concern.
Why Then The Brouhaha?
"Laboratory studies suggest specific monoclonal antibody treatments may be less effective for treating cases of COVID-19 caused by variants with the combination of K417N, E484K, and N501Y, or the combination of K417T, E484K, and N501Y substitutions in the spike protein or the L452R or E484K substitution in the spike protein," observed CDC.
In the Delta variant, the mutation has happened in N501Y, and the current mutation at K417T alongside the earlier one categorises the Delta plus as a mutant variant capable of evading the neutralising antibody response or making the monoclonal antibody treatments less effective.
Hence the concern all over.