Delta plus may sound like a great new service offered by one of the major world airlines. But this is most assuredly not an amenity to look forward to, as we start up our lives again after the worst of the pandemic appears to be over.
The newly-coined name of the coronavirus variant Delta comes out of India. So similar to the Delta variant that it cannot be given its own moniker, this type of Delta mutation concerns the spike proteins that cover the surface of the virus.
Called the K417N mutation, it is worrying enough that the government of India has already dubbed it a “variant of concern.”
All viruses constantly mutate, or change their genetic code that they pass on, as a result of replicating their genetic code as they multiply.
All those fully vaccinated with mRNA vaccines “highly protected against Delta”
These tiny “mistakes” that occur in their code cause changes in their ability to infect organisms – making the virus either easier or harder to withstand.
The problem is, this variant’s newest mutation appears to pose even more of a threat than the original Delta variant itself.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a “variant of concern” as one that has any of the following features: an increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in Covid-19 epidemiology; an increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; or a ecrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics.
Dr. Anand Swaminathan, an ER physician in New Jersey, told interviewers from Yahoo Finance: “We don’t know enough about it yet to know how concerned we should be. At this point, what we know is that our vaccines are effective against the Delta variant.
“If you have two doses against one of the mRNA-based vaccines, we know you’re highly protected against Delta. What this tells us is that that this variant will continue to mutate, which means that unchecked spread in the US will lead to other problems.
“There’s the immediate threat of Delta itself, and then there’s the down the line threat of it mutating into something that may possibly be able to evade our vaccines. But at this point we don’t know enough to become too worried about vaccine evasion.
“I think we’re seeing the first cases of Delta Plus being described out of India. I don’t know If that we’ve heard much about it elsewhere.
Delta Plus developments in UK are harbinger for the US
“What we have to keep an eye on is what’s happening in the UK. We’ve found over and over again is that what happens in the UK comes to the US. It’s a little bit delayed. We really need to keep an eye on what their sequencing is showing. We just don’t have enough of that data available yet on where this is going to start.”
The Delta Plus variant has of course already been given a numerical moniker — B.1.617.2.1, if you’re keeping track. It also has another name by which it is already known, the “AY.1 variant.”
As the original Delta variant is already causing concern across the globe, with less developed nations struggle with inoculating their citizens, those who are fully vaccinated are increasingly worried that their inoculations might not hold up against yet another variety of the coronavirus.
The Delta variant has already wreaked havoc in the UK, as the government there decided to delay its much-desired reopening after months of varied stages of lockdowns. The previous date for reopening had been set for June 21, but this has now been put off until July 21.
At the time of that announcement, on June 15, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had stated
“I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer.
“As things stand, and on the evidence that I can see right now, I’m confident that we will not need more than four weeks.”
This major decision shows just how concerned world leaders are about the original Delta variant — and this new mutation of it poses nothing but more questions for those who must make the incredibly difficult decisions regarding what to reopen and when.
Delta has already been responsible for resurgences of Covid-19 in Nepal and Southeast Asia and triggered severe new restrictive measures in Australia after it was detected in Sydney.
Available data now shows that the original Delta mutation is approximately 40% to 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant — the first major coronavirus variant that was diagnosed, in Great Britain.
However, the Delta variant may soon outstrip the Alpha variant, to the point where it becomes the most dominant strain all over the globe.
A major concern is that the original Delta variant in and of itself may be more damaging to lung cells in those who catch the mutation of the virus.
Increased risk of hospitalization with Delta, as compared to Alpha, variant
A report from Public Health England early last month showed that early data “from both England and Scotland demonstrate an increased risk of hospitalization with Delta compared to Alpha.”
Naturally, one of the most prominent concerns is how well the vaccines stand up against all the new variants that pop up on the world stage.
The same Public Health England showed that existing Covid-19 vaccines may be slightly less effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 from the Delta variant versus the alpha variant.
Subjects were studied from April 5 to May 16 of this year, demonstrating that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were 88% effective against the Delta variant in preventing symptomatic Covid-19.
The same vaccines had proven to be 93% effective against the Alpha variant. The AstraZeneca vaccine was also tested for its ability to fight the Delta variant; it showed to be 60% effective versus 66% against the Alpha variant.
Depending on how the spike protein on the outer surface of the virus is altered, any change, such as this newest mutation, could potentially enhance the virus’s ability to infect humans.
All the most prominent vaccines, such as Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Astra Zeneca, are geared toward generating immune responses against these spike protein.
This begs the question of whether or not the new variation in the spike protein that we see in the Delta Plus mutation will be able to be targeted by these vaccines.
The clue to this question’s solution may be that such mutations as the K417N is already present in the Beta variant (B.1.351 lineage) that was first detected in South Africa, which is present now all across the world.
Reuters reports that Indian health authorities have already stated at least 40 cases of the Delta Plus variant have been diagnosed there, while the U.S. lists at least 83, and the UK has had at least 36.
The nation of Portugal has reported at least 22 cases there while Switzerland has had at least 18, and Japan — where the Olympics are set to begin in three weeks — at least 15.
The new Delta variant has already made appearances all across the world, in Canada, Nepal, Poland, Russia, and Turkey, so far. Health authorities stress that vaccination is paramount, especially as we already know that the vaccines have had success with the Delta variant itself.
Apart from that, social distancing and mask-wearing — which are already going the way of the dinosaur in countries such as the US, where vaccination levels for those able to receive it appear to be reaching a saturation point.
Back in May, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relaxed social distancing and face mask guidelines for those who were fully vaccinated — not for everyone, as many are prone to forget.
Coronavirus fatigue, coupled with a pervasive attitude in the US that the most vulnerable people are already vaccinated, make for a potent atmosphere in which the new variants can spread in those who refuse the inoculation.
As of today, 46.2% of the total population is fully vaccinated, while the percentage of those who are partially vaccinated hovers around 70%.