A mutation of the delta COVID variant, dubbed “delta plus” by researchers, has arisen in several countries, including India, Canada, Russia, and the United States. The new mutation has several concerning properties, including increased transmissibility, prompting questions about what exactly the delta plus variant is and how it can be combated.
The delta plus variant is at least as transmissible as the delta variant, which is thought to be twice as transmissible as the original COVID-19 strain. It is also less responsive to antibodies and more capable of attacking the lungs.
“It gives you a double whammy,” Dr. Lucio Miele, head of the department of genetics at LSU School of Medicine, told NOLA. “It’s a more infectious virus and it’s a virus that is not as easily neutralized by antibodies.”
The mutation was recently detected in Louisiana but still lacks a solid foothold in the United States. Three states in India increased screening for the new variant earlier this week, after more than 40 instances of delta plus were discovered between the three states. One unvaccinated patient died after testing positive for delta plus.
The delta plus variant, along with other COVID-19 variants, pose the greatest risk to unvaccinated individuals. The current vaccines offer protection against all of the known COVID variants, and experts believe this includes delta plus. Even those who gained immunity through a case of COVID may be a risk, however, prompting experts to urge anyone unvaccinated to get a jab.
“This virus can get past the defenses that our bodies made against earlier pandemic viruses,” Jeremy Kamil, a virologist out of LSU Health Shreveport, said. “You’re much better off if you’ve gotten the vaccine.”
Experts are keeping an eye on the variant, but many are urging the public to remain calm. More information is needed before scientists can determine exactly how much of a risk the mutation poses.
“If we go by the currently available evidence, delta plus is not very different from delta variant,” Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, a physician-epidemiologist and vaccines and health systems expert based in New Delhi, told CNBC. “It is the same delta variant with one additional mutation.”
In an effort to avoid further spread of the delta plus variant, experts advise that the public follow health guidelines and get vaccinated. Wearing a mask while in public is also recommended, along with frequent hand washing and social distancing where possible.
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