NewsThe Delta variant of COVID-19: is it as dangerous...

The Delta variant of COVID-19: is it as dangerous as it sounds?

The Delta variant is the main suspect behind the increase in COVID-19 infections in the world after two months of decline. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicated in its weekly report on Tuesday, 2.6 million cases were registered from June 21 to 27, a slight increase of 2% over the previous seven days.

According to this report, the Delta variant – detected for the first time in India – is present in 96 countries. Some nations that had been an example for their management of the pandemic, such as Australia and Israel, had to reactivate anticovid restrictions due to the presence of this variant, which has caused new spikes in infections.

In other countries, such as Russia, Indonesia and Portugal, the Delta variant has led to records of infections and hospitalizations for COVID-19.

So far, it has been found that the Delta variant can be more contagious than others previously detected. Also, it can better elude the antibodies generated by vaccines, but what is the true risk of this variant? This is what we know.

What is the Delta variant of COVID and where did it arise?

The Delta variant of COVID-19 was first detected in India in October 2020. The B.1.617.2 lineage had previously been known as presenting two mutations that could make it better at evading the immune system.

“These new mutations include changes in the spike protein that make it a ‘better fit’ for human cells. This means that the virus can enter more easily and multiply faster,” said researchers Prafulla Shriyan and Giridhara R. Babu. in an article for The Conversation published on April 6.

Delta is the fourth of “variants of concern” detected by the WHO.

Variants of concern are those mutations in the coronavirus that present an increase in transmissibility, greater virulence, changes in the clinical manifestation of the disease or a decrease in the effectiveness of public health measures, available diagnoses, vaccines or treatments.

What does the WHO say about the Delta variant?

On May 11, the variant identified for the first time in India was designated a “variant of concern”.

“There are reports that B.1.617 is more contagious,” but there are also indications that it has a degree of resistance to vaccines, and “therefore, we classify it as a worrying variant,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said at the time. , technical manager of the fight against COVID-19 in the WHO.

Variant B.1.617 “presents mutations that increase transmission and that can also potentially make it resistant to antibodies developed through vaccination or natural contamination,” explained the chief scientist of the World Health Organization (WHO), Soumya. Swaminathan, in an interview with the AFP agency released in early May.

Swaminathan said on June 18 that Delta was on track to become the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the world due to its increased transmissibility.

The director general of this United Nations agency, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed on June 25 his concern about the rapid transmission among populations not vaccinated against COVID-19, as they will be more vulnerable to the Delta variant.

“It is for now the most contagious variant that has been identified,” he warned.

Tedros pointed out at that press conference that as the downward trend in global COVID-19 cases slows down, there are even countries where infections are on the rise again, generating more hospitalizations and greater pressure on health workers and, consequently, the risk of deaths associated with the disease is increased.

Delta variant symptoms

The symptoms of the disease that the Delta variant causes are slightly different than a typical case of COVID-19.

Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London who leads the call, explained to the BBC that younger people who contract the Delta variant may feel “more like they have a bad cold.”

According to the study led by Spector, the most common symptom among COVID-19 patients who have not yet been vaccinated in the United Kingdom – where 99% of new cases correspond to the Delta variant – is headache, followed by pain sore throat, runny nose, fever and persistent cough.

Classic COVID-19 symptoms, such as a cough, fever, and loss of smell or taste, are now less common, according to data the Zoe Covid Symptom Study team receives from thousands of people who record their symptoms. in an app, Spector told the British media.

“The Delta variant seems to give slightly different symptoms: more affecting the upper respiratory system such as sore throat, runny nose and sore throat and rarely anosmia (loss of smell)”, said the general director of prevention of the Ministry of Health of Italy, Gianni Rezza, according to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

This is good news, as many young people who get sick will not develop a serious illness. However, the risk of this change in the clinical picture is that, since it can be easily confused with a cold, it can cause carelessness in confinement and further spread.

“I think the message here is that if you’re young and have any mild symptoms, even if it may seem like a bad cold or a weird feeling … stay home and get tested,” Spector suggested.

According to a Scottish study published on June 14, the Delta variant was associated with twice the risk of hospitalization compared to Alpha, first detected in the UK. However, the Scottish patients analyzed had prior conditions that put them at higher risk of hospitalization.

“It is not yet known whether in terms of hospitalization, the Delta variant carries an increased risk,” Rezza said.

Delta variant in Mexico

Mexico is one of the 14 countries in America where the Delta variant is present. This has been detected in three states of the republic, according to PAHO. One of these places is Nuevo León, as confirmed last Friday by the state health secretary, Manuel de la O Cavazos.

The Delta variant of the coronavirus – highly contagious – has been detected mostly in travelers throughout America and its community transmission has been limited, said Jairo Méndez-Rico, PAHO adviser on Emerging Viral Diseases.

What vaccines protect against the Delta variant?

A study by health authorities in England, published on June 14, noted that having received two doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech or AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccines effectively protects against hospitalization due to the Delta variant.

According to this research by Public Health England (PHE), taking two doses of Pfizer / BioNTech protects 96% against hospitalizations due to the Delta variant, while Oxford / AstraZeneca offers an efficacy of 92%.

These are “results comparable to the efficacy of the vaccine in preventing hospitalization related to the Alpha variant”, published in December in England.

Mary Ramsay, Head of Vaccination at PHE, stressed as “absolutely vital to receive both doses as soon as they are offered to obtain maximum protection against all existing and emerging variants.”

The effectiveness of the Russian anticovid Sputnik V vaccine is 2.6 times lower against the Indian variant of the coronavirus, Denis Logunov, the deputy director of Research at the Gamaleya Center, developer of the preparation, said on Tuesday.

Sputnik V has shown an efficacy of 97.6% in the vaccination campaign of the Russians, but the Indian variant, mainly the Delta “slightly lowers the activity of the serum,” Logunov said at a press conference.

The Gamaleya Institute assures that, even so, the effectiveness of its vaccine against

American biotech Moderna also announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 vaccine produced neutralizing activity against variants of the coronavirus, including Delta, in a laboratory study not yet peer-reviewed.

According to a statement, the vaccine produced antibody titers against all variants tested “in vitro”, including Beta, identified in South Africa; the Delta, identified in India, and others identified in Nigeria, Uganda and Angola.

Moderna, which is working on a clinical development strategy to protect against variants, used serum samples from eight participants obtained one week after the second dose in the first phase of the clinical trial of its anticovid vaccine.

Delta Plus, the new variant

The detection of a new, more infectious mutation of the coronavirus, the Delta Plus variant, of which 40 cases have already been identified, is beginning to cause concern in India.

Although according to experts there is still a lack of data to determine whether this mutation is more dangerous than existing ones, the announcement comes amid warnings about the need to prepare for an inevitable third wave of COVID-19.

“The Delta Plus variant has been detected sporadically in Maharashtra in the west, Kerala in the south, and Madhya Pradesh in the center, with some 40 cases detected so far,” the Health Minister said June 23. Indian, Harsh Vardhan, on Twitter.

It is a mutation of the Delta variant identified for the first time in India (B.1.617.2), which is considered largely responsible for the spectacular increase in cases in the Asian country, indicated the Sequencing Consortium of the India’s SARS-CoV-2 genome (INSACOG) in a statement.

The Indian government has classified the Delta Plus as a “concern variant” due to its higher transmission capacity.

The states that have detected their presence should take immediate measures to isolate the sources of infection and increase the number of coronavirus tests, as well as strengthen the vaccination campaign, the Executive said in a statement last week.

The virologist Jayaprakash Muliyil, president of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the National Institute of Epidemiology, told the EFE agency that at the moment there is a lack of data to affirm that it is more dangerous than other variants.

“We have described it as a worrying variant because Delta has changed (…) but at the moment we have not observed anything harmful. A mutation may imply a higher infection or mortality rate, but there is no information available” on the Delta Plus Muliyil said.

With information from EFE, AFP and Reuters

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