June 28, 2021 -- Public health officials in India are sounding the alarm on another coronavirus variant, which they are calling “Delta Plus.”
The Delta Plus variant, which is a mutation of the widespread Delta strain first identified in India, could be more infectious and cause more severe COVID-19. Officials in India labeled it a “variant of concern” this week.
The variant, also known as B.1.617.2.1, has led to an increase in cases in India. It has also been detected in the U.S., U.K., China, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Russia, and Switzerland.
Public health agencies such as the CDC and Public Health England are monitoring various “variants of concern” as the pandemic continues worldwide. On Friday, Public Health England issued a new briefing focused on the Delta variant, including potential mutations such as Delta Plus. The Delta strain is the dominant variant in the U.K. and now accounts for 95% of cases being sequenced.
Public Health England also said another variant, called Lambda, was designated a “variant under investigation” this week due to an increase in cases. Lambda, which was first identified in Peru, has spread to 26 countries. The six cases identified in the U.K. have been linked to overseas travel, according to the report.
Earlier this week, health officials in India asked three states to increase vigilance and screening for the Delta Plus variant, CBS News reported. More than 40 cases of the new mutation have been found in those states, and at least one unvaccinated patient has died. So far, scientists in India who have sequenced the strain said the Delta Plus variant appears to be more transmissible, better able to attack lung cells, and less responsive to antibodies.
At the same time, scientists say they still need more data to understand the new strains, according to BBC News.
“I would keep calm,” Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, told the news outlet.
“I don’t think India or anyone else in the world has released or accumulated enough data to distinguish the risk from the so-called Delta Plus as being more dangerous or concerning than the original Delta variant,” he said.