The Delta Plus variant was first detected in Europe in March this year. In India, government experts found traces of the variant in some samples collected on April 5. On June 22, the Union Health Ministry classified it as a variant of concern. As of June 27, the country detected 51 cases of Delta Plus infections across 12 states, with Maharashtra reporting the highest number of cases.
But what do the experts say about it? Is this variant more harmful than its predecessors, or is it not as concerning as we have assumed it to be? Let's take a look into the five most insightful expert opinions about the virus till now.
What does the World Health Organisation say about Delta Plus?
Earlier, commenting on the Delta variant, the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had concernedly noted that the Delta variant is the most transmissible variant of the Coronavirus so far and is spreading rapidly among unvaccinated people.
Now, commenting on the Delta Plus variant in a statement, WHO has said that though this uncommon variant accounts for a minuscule portion of the Delta sequences, it remains a risk for public health as they have a demonstrated increase in transmission, as quoted by The Times of India.
How harmful is the new variant?
According to government experts, the Delta Plus variant has three characteristic features. It is highly transmissible, adheres more strongly to the lung cell receptors, and considerably reduces monoclonal antibody response.
National Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (NTAGI) chief Dr NK Arora has recently said that compared to the previous strains, the Delta Plus variant has a greater affinity towards lung tissues. However, that does not make the variant more severe or more transmissible. Also, whether it causes damage or not is still unclear, as quoted by Hindustan Times.
A popular opinion is that the variant is not as harmful as it is feared to be. Dr Ravindra Gupta, Professor of Clinical Microbiology, Cambridge Institute for Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases, said, "I predict 417 (Delta Plus) is not an important enough mutation. Delta is bad enough as it is, and I don't think 417 will change (it) that much or become dominant," as quoted by Time.
Can it infect vaccinated people?
Reportedly, the first Delta Plus case of Rajasthan was detected in a 65-year-old woman who was not only fully vaccinated but had recovered from Covid in the past.
It is important to note that the vaccines available have been developed to prevent the original strain of Covid-19– the Alpha variant. Since the Delta, Delta Plus, and other new strains are emerging only now, and they can easily surpass the antibodies that these vaccines release.
But this problem is not unsolvable. As reported by Hindustan Times, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) chief Dr Balram Bhargava recently said that the council is studying the effects of the vaccines of different variants. According to the variants prevalent in the future, the finding of this study will suggest modifications in the vaccine compositions. Till now, this seems to be the only need-based solution as a way forward.
Also read: Maharashtra Records First Death From Delta Plus Variant Of COVID