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Context: A new variant of the coronavirus has been detected in some states. Can this stronger mutation lead to a third wave?
What is the Delta Plus variant?
- It is a further mutation of prevalent Delta variant which had a huge role to play in the country’s second covid-19 wave. Health authorities here have termed the Delta Plus, or B.1.617.2.1, a variant of concern.
- However, not much is known about this new variant and health experts are worried.
WHO nomenclature of the Covid-19 variants:
- VOC B.1.1.7 will be called Alpha Variant. It was the earliest documented in the United Kingdom (September 2020).
- VOC B.1.351 will be called Beta Variant. It was the earliest documented in South Africa (May 2020).
- VOC P.1 will be called Gamma Variant. It was the earliest documented in Brazil (November 2020).
- VOC B.1.617.2 will be called Delta Variant. It was the earliest documented in India (October 2020).
Why is it a cause for concern?
- More transmissible: This version evolved from its predecessor Delta. Further, Delta Plus also has the same mutation that was first seen in the Beta Variant in South Africa. This combination can make it all the more transmissible.
- The health ministry says this variant binds more easily to lung cells and is potentially resistant to monoclonal antibody therapy.
- There is also no data on how existing treatments or even vaccines will work against this variant.
- Vaccine escape is possible if this variant evades the antibodies produced against the surface spike protein by developing shape-changing mutations in that protein.
How is research community responding to newer variants?
- Focusing on multi-antigen vaccine: Most of the vaccines produced so far have a “monogamous relationship with the spike protein”. Unlike the surface spike protein, the interior antigens of the virus are slow to mutate. So, researchers are testing multi-antigen vaccines. These vaccines combine the spike protein with the nucleocapsid and ORF-3a which are interior viral antigens.
- Focus on Vaccines with a strong T-cell response: Neutralizing antibodies can attack the virus only in the bloodstream. On the other hand, T cells in our immune system can tackle virus even inside our cells. So, vaccines with a strong T-cell response are not put off by spike protein mutations. So, the researchers are also working on these vaccines.
Keywords and Definitions:
Delta variant, monoclonal antibody therapy, Delta plus variant, multi-antigen vaccine
Tags: Delta plus variant, delta variant