India has declared a ‘Delta Plus’ coronavirus strain a variant of concern.
Delta Plus has spread to nine other countries – including the UK – after first being discovered in India in April.
The variant – also known as AY.1 – is feared to be more transmissible than the original Delta, which has recently driven infections in the UK up.
The original Delta is up to 60% more contagious than the Alpha variant which emerged in Kent in December last year.
Delta Plus has been detected in 22 samples from six districts in three states in India – Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.
Sixteen of these were in Maharashtra which is one of the areas hit hardest by the pandemic.
Officials in Maharashtra are investigating and will examine patients’ travel history and see if they were vaccinated.
Covid mutations are expected and most are insignificant, but a mutation must fulfil one of several criteria to be elevated from a ‘variant of interest’ to a ‘variant of concern’.
India’s health ministry says officials believe Delta Plus spreads more easily, binds to lung cells easier and may be resistant to monoclonal antibody therapy, a drug therapy that aims to neutralise viruses.
The Pfizer-BioNTech jab has been found to provide 79% protection against the original Delta variant, compared with 92% against the Alpha strain, at least two weeks after the second dose.
Meanwhile, the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab offered 60% protection against the original Delta variant – compared with 73% for the Alpha variant.
It comes after the original Delta variant spurred a devastating Covid wave in India.
Infection numbers are the lowest they have been in more than three months, but only 5.5% of adults are vaccinated so far.
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