UK Officials Eye the Delta Plus Variant

Source: Freepik

Public Health England has announced the discovery of a new variant called the ‘Delta Plus’, raising concerns of a more transmissible virus.

The Delta variant, first discovered in India, has now become the dominant strain worldwide. Not only does the variant lead to increased hospitalizations, but is also deemed more contagious than all other strains. In the UK, the variant has led to a recent surge of infections. To make matters worse, researchers in the UK have now discovered a new delta variant. Dubbed Delta plus, or AY.4.2, the variant is raising concerns of being more transmissible and likely causing another wave of infections. According to a report by Public Health England, the strain now accounts for 6% of cases in the UK.

Health officials in the UK are keeping a close eye on the new variant as it possesses some critical mutations. However, it is too early to predict whether the mutations make it more resistant to vaccines, or not. Moreover, the World Health Organization has not yet classified it as a Variant of Concern or Interest.

Experts first identified the Delta plus variant in July 2021. Since then, they have observed an increasing percentage of cases containing the new strain. Researchers have found that the variant contains two significant spike protein mutations, called Y145H and A222V. Although the mutations affect spike protein, they do not alter the receptor-binding domain, the part that attaches to cells. Furthermore, both Y145H and A222V have also appeared in earlier strains of coronavirus, but never in a Variant of Concern.

According to Professor Francois Balloux at the University College London’s Genetics Institute, the delta plus variant is approximately 10% more transmissible than other strains. However, it is not responsible for the rising COVID-19 cases in the UK.

At this stage I would say wait and see, don’t panic. It might be slightly, subtly more transmissible but it is not something absolutely disastrous like we saw previously.

Prof Francois Balloux, director of University College London’s Genetics Institute


Public Health England


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