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COVID-19 Explainer: Delta Variant Dominates The World, But Scientists Watch For Worrisome Offspring

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Delta variant of COVID-19 makes up 99.5 per cent of all genomic sequences reported to public databases and has “outcompeted” other variants in most countries

COVID-19 Explainer: Delta Variant Dominates The World, But Scientists Watch For Worrisome Offspring
The Delta variant was first detected in India in December 2020 and remains the most worrisome version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus
Highlights
  • Delta's superpower is its transmissibility, says Shane Crotty, a virologist
  • Delta is over two times as contagious as previous SARS-CoV-2 variants: CDC
  • Delta can cause symptoms 2-3 days sooner than the original coronavirus

Chicago: The Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus now accounts for nearly all of the coronavirus infections globally, fueled by unchecked spread of the novel coronavirus in many parts of the world. So far, vaccines are still able to defend against serious disease and death from Delta, but scientists remain on alert. Here is what we know:

Delta – Still Dominant

The Delta variant, first detected in India in December 2020, remains the most worrisome version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The World Health Organization classifies Delta as a variant of concern, a category that means the variant is capable of increasing transmissibility, causing more severe disease or reducing the benefit of vaccines and treatments.

Also Read: Children Under Five Exempted From COVID-19 Testing While Travelling To India: Health Ministry

Delta’s “superpower” is its transmissibility, according to Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in San Diego.

Delta is more than two times as contagious as previous SARS-CoV-2 variants, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies suggest it may be more likely to put infected people in the hospital than prior forms of the virus.

Delta also can cause symptoms two to three days sooner than the original coronavirus, giving the immune system less time to mount a defense.

People infected with Delta carry around 1,200 times more virus in their noses compared with the original version of the coronavirus. The amount of virus in vaccinated individuals who become infected with Delta is on par with those who are unvaccinated, and both can transmit the virus to others.

In vaccinated people, however, the amount of virus drops more quickly, so they likely spread the virus for a shorter time.

Also Read: COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Required If Virus Gets Mutated: Bharat Biotech’s Chairman

According to the WHO, Delta makes up 99.5% of all genomic sequences reported to public databases and has “outcompeted” other variants in most countries.

A key exception is South America, where Delta has spread more gradually, and other variants previously seen as possible global threats – notably Gamma, Lambda and Mu – still contribute to a significant proportion of reported cases.

Delta Offspring

Given Delta’s global dominance, many vaccine experts now believe that all future variants will be offshoots of Delta.

One notable Delta “grandchild” is known as AY.4.2 and is concentrated largely in the UK, where it makes up roughly 10% of sequenced virus samples.

AY.4.2 carries two additional mutations in the spike protein, which the virus uses to enter cells. Scientists are still studying what advantage, if any, these mutations confer.

The UK Health Security Agency has designated the AY.4.2 a “Variant Under Investigation.” A preliminary analysis suggests it does not significantly impair vaccine effectiveness compared with Delta, but there is some evidence that it could be slightly more transmissible, the agency said.

According to the WHO, AY.4.2 has spread to at least 42 countries, including the United States.

Also Read: 2021 Covid Outbreak In Delhi Shows Herd Immunity Against Delta Variant Difficult: Study

More On The Way?

Virus experts are closely watching the evolution of Delta, looking for any sign that it has acquired mutations that would allow the highly transmissible variant to pierce the immune protection of vaccines and natural infection.

Even so, while current vaccines prevent severe disease and death, they do not block infection. The virus is still capable of replicating in the nose, even among vaccinated people, who can then transmit the disease through tiny, aerosolized droplets.

To defeat SARS-CoV-2 will likely require a new generation of vaccines that also block transmission, according to Dr. Gregory Poland, a vaccine developer at the Mayo Clinic. Until then, Poland and other experts say, the world remains vulnerable.

Also Read: Mix-and-match Vaccines Highly Effective Against COVID-19: Lancet Study

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity,  that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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