1. Delta or Delta Plus variant? Which is a bigger threat and why?
India has been engulfed by a nasty spread of novel coronavirus, especially during the second wave. It was fueled majorly by the Delta variant, discovered first in India and found to be many times more infectious than the original strain, and added caseloads every day to a crippled healthcare system. It is also now the most dominant variant causing a surge of cases across the globe. In India, where the case count has spiralled down, there’s still a likely possibility of a third wave coming up and a newer, scarier mutation, Delta Plus was discovered in some states of the country and still considered a possible threat.
The Delta variant of the virus, known to be majorly infectious, transmissible and severe in its attack drove the second wave of the virus in many parts of the country. At the same time, the Delta Plus variant, also sequenced during some of the cases detected during the second wave, is said to carry forward mutations from two variants is seen to infect even those who have fully vaccinated, and also cause death. But which amongst the two should we be the most cautious of? Could one be more possibly infectious than the other?
2. Delta vs Delta Plus variant: How do they compare?
Both the Delta and Delta Plus variants have been categorized as Variants of Concern (VoC), and are spreading in many countries. The most profound threats were seen in ours, where vaccination coverage is still on the lower side.
While the Delta variant (B.1.617.2) continues to be a dominant and rapidly rising variant wreaking havoc across the world, it is also responsible for the extreme deluge of cases and devastations faced during the second wave in India. Not only were maximum cases found to be genomically traced to this variant of the virus, it still remains to be a concerning variant adding cases, even after the decline of the second wave trajectory in India. In states still recording worrying caseloads, the Delta variant has been deemed responsible.
Meanwhile, the Delta Plus variant, which too, was sequenced in Maharashtra, India, is a concerning virus variant. Containing mutations of two COVID variants- the Beta variant (discovered in South Africa) and the Delta variant (discovered in India), the Delta Plus contains two striking mutations- L452R and P871R.
3. Which one could rise faster?
While the Delta variant of coronavirus was heavily responsible for driving a deadly second wave, the rise of cases was also quite fast with the variant because of its high transmissibility. However, the Delta Plus variant, which contains mutations from the Delta variant has been labelled even more concerning. In comparison, the Delta plus variant is said to spread almost ’60 percent faster’ than the Delta variant.
However, while clinical observations have suggested a higher contagion threat, the presence of the Delta Plus variant is still on the lower side and has only been found to spread at a much slower rate than expected. To date, three states account for most diagnosed cases of the new variant- Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.
Now, while the Delta variant is still a dominant COVID strain, and the virus very much active, experts suggest that the Delta variant, with its severe striking symptoms could remain to be a lingering threat we might face.
The evidence available on transmissibility and spread have also concurred via studies and genomic findings. As per experts, Delta Plus, despite its severe features and ability to rapidly spread, is not actually rising faster right now.
4. Symptoms of both the variants
The Delta variant of the virus is considered extreme due to the severity of symptoms it causes, in comparison to the original strain. High lung involvement, respiratory difficulties and gastrointestinal complaints (even with mild or moderate cases) were what differentiated it from previous variants of concerns.
The Delta plus variant, meanwhile, which is said to carry features from both the Delta variant and the Beta variant could be even more severe in nature. Some studies have suggested that the variant could easily surpass immune defences, and bind strongly to lung cell receptors. More studies are underway to determine an elaborated list of possible signs and symptoms.
While most of the symptoms are said to be similar to the Delta variant, below listed could be the possible signs which draw some concerns and attention:
-Early-stage lung involvement
-Shortness of breath and breathing difficulties
-Longer lasting fever and persistent cough
-Skin rashes and allergies
-Dryness and watery eyes
-Appetite loss and nausea
5. What poses a greater threat for vaccinated individuals?
With any variant, what studies have shown is that the maximum risk entails unvaccinated individuals. The Delta variant, with its severe symptoms and high contagion rate was seen to massively impact the ones who were/are unvaccinated. The ones who did contract a breakthrough case, only went on to develop milder symptoms and had a faster recovery timeline. The odds of hospitalization and mortality with vaccination are drastically reduced.
However, with the Delta Plus variant, not only could the virus be potentially threatening for the unvaccinated, but it has been seen to increasingly affect the ones who have been fully vaccinated as well in different manners- some asymptomatic, some suffering from mild or moderate infections, and very rarely involved the risk of hospitalizations. To date, over 3 deaths have been recorded in the country, attributed to the Delta Plus variant. All 3 cases were linked to severe comorbidities as well. Government reports also have issued warnings that the newer variant, while evading the immune defences, could also reduce a response to the monoclonal antibody therapy.
It is also unknown as to how effective current vaccines are against the newer variant, since it’s still slowly spreading and only a few cases have been detected so far. However, experts and virologists continue to issue cautionary advice, suggesting that despite a low prevalence, the Delta plus variant could evade antibody protection and thus, add to worries.