Delta variant mutates further into ‘AY.1’ — more adapted to escape immune system, vaccines, say researchers

The delta variant of COVID19, which was hugely responsible for the second wave of the pandemic in India, has been reported to have mutated to a newer strain that is named as AY.1 or delta plus. More details here.

Gaon Connection
| Updated: Last updated on June 16th, 2021,

The WHO has already termed the earlier delta variant a ‘variant of concern’. It is now mutating to newer strains.

As the Sars-Cov-2 virus continues to mutate and new strains of COVID19 surface, the delta variant, which was reported to be the most infectious so far, has mutated to a strain that has been named as B.1.617.2.1 — also called AY.1 for convenience.

This new strain has been reported to manifest ‘immune escape properties’ which makes it more resistant to the defence mechanism of the immune system as well as to the effect of Coronavirus vaccines.

Vinod Scaria, clinician and scientist at Delhi-based CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), tweeted on June 13 that the AY.1 or delta plus variant is characterised by the acquisition of K417N mutation — a type of mutation in the spike protein of the COVID19 virus that helps it in attaching with the body cells with greater ease.

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“Most mutations will be inconsequential, but a few may, by chance, confer a functional advantage over others and, through natural selection may become dominant,” states a note released by the British government.

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More research needed on Delta plus variant

Director of New Delhi-based Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, pulmonologist Anurag Agarwal, told news agency PTI, “There is no cause of concern due to the new variant in India as of now.”

Agarwal, who is also a medical researcher, informed that blood plasma from fully vaccinated individuals will have to be tested against the Delta plus variant to determine whether it shows any significant escape from the body’s immune response.

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“Understanding this continued evolution is of great importance in mapping the evolutionary landscape of emerging variants. Largely, the virus has tried to optimise for transmission and immune escape by step-wise acquisition of new mutations,” said Anurag Agarwal.

What is the delta variant which is mutating to new strains?

The World Health Organization (WHO) has implemented a naming system based on the Greek alphabet. Accordingly, the B.1.617 variant has been named as delta variant.  Apart from delta, other variants of the coronavirus named by WHO include alpha, beta, gamma, iota, kappa, and zeta.

The WHO has termed delta variant a ‘variant of concern’.

Delta variant could become dominant strain in United States

Former director of the Food and Drug Administration Scott Gottlieb has stated that the delta variant is doubling every two weeks and is slated to become the dominant strain in the US.

Explained: What is the ‘delta’ variant of COVID19? Why is it dangerous? Can Covishield, Covaxin offer protection?

Gottlieb added that areas where people are either not vaccinated or only partially vaccinated are at the greatest risk of new outbreaks, and the president’s chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, has urged everyone to ensure that they are fully vaccinated in light of the risks the new variant.

Last week, Fauci had stated that six per cent of the new coronavirus cases in the United States are those infected by the delta variant.