Responsible for the surge of cases in the second wave of COVID19 pandemic in India and termed by the World Health Organization as the ‘variant of concern’, the delta variant of Sars-CoV-2 has been the most damaging so far. Can vaccines used in India offer protection? More details here.
According to the WHO, cases of the delta variant have been confirmed in at least 62 countries across the globe.
The delta variant of COVID19 technically referred to as B.1.617 has been the deadliest variant of the Sars-CoV-2 virus so far. The variant was hugely responsible for the surge in coronavirus cases in the second wave of the pandemic in India.
Apart from India, the delta variant has registered significant presence in Britain and the United States. It has been found to be present in an estimated 60 per cent of the new COVID19 cases in the United Kingdom (UK). The recent surge due to this variant in the UK has led the government to reconsider its plan to remove the restrictions by June 21.
Also, top American medical expert Anthony Fauci has stated that six per cent of the new coronavirus cases in the United States are those infected by the delta variant.
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’.
On June 7, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the Parliament that that the delta variant is 40 per cent more infectious than the alpha variant which is also known as B.1.1.7.
According to the WHO, cases of the delta variant have been confirmed in at least 62 countries across the globe. This variant was first identified in Maharashtra last in October.
It is the natural tendency of a virus to change its genetic structure — a process known by the term mutation. The mutations occur when a virus copies itself in large numbers after entering the system of a host organism, for example human beings in case of the COVID19.
“When a virus replicates or makes copies of itself, it sometimes changes a little bit, which is normal for a virus. These changes are called “mutations”. A virus with one or more new mutations is referred to as a “variant” of the original virus,” the WHO states.
“Most viral mutations have little to no impact on the virus’s ability to cause infections and disease. But depending on where the changes are located in the virus’s genetic material, they may affect a virus’s properties, such as transmission (for example, it may spread more or less easily) or severity (for example, it may cause more or less severe disease),” it adds.
Apart from being more infectious than other variants, the symptoms associated with delta variants include severe gastric upsets, hearing impairment, and blood clots which sometimes even lead to gangrene.
It is also reported that the blood clots in patients infected with the delta variant are especially challenging.
A study jointly conducted by Delhi-based All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says that the delta variant is capable of infecting people who have been vaccinated with both the doses of Covishield or Covaxin.
However, another study jointly conducted by Pune-based National Institute of Virology, Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech (manufacturer of Covaxin), and the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) claims that the Indian-made Covaxin is effective in neutralising the beta and delta variants of COVID19.
It is important to mention that both these studies have not been peer-reviewed yet.
Meanwhile, on the possibility of vaccines being helpful in fighting off these variants, WHO states that COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in development or have been approved are expected to provide at least some protection against new virus variants because these vaccines elicit a broad immune response involving a range of antibodies and cells.
“In the event that any of these vaccines prove to be less effective against one or more variants, it will be possible to change the composition of the vaccines to protect against these variants,” WHO further explained.