India on Tuesday formally acknowledged that another variant of the coronavirus, called AY.1 or B.1.617.2.1, had emerged, The Hindu reported.
The variant was first identified in March in Europe, said VK Paul, chairperson of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for Covid-19 in India. He was addressing a media briefing on the country’s coronavirus situation.
Paul referred to the new variant as “Delta Plus” and added that details of the strain had been submitted to the global data system, after being brought into public domain on June 13, ANI reported.
“This is a variant of interest, it has not yet been classified as a variant of concern,” Paul said. “We will study and learn more about this variant.”
The NITI Aayog (health) member added that while the continued mutation of the coronavirus was a biological fact, steps had to be taken to curb the virus spread. He also said that the mutant strain has been found to nullify the use of monoclonal antibody, which has recently been used for treating high-risk coronavirus patients.
AY.1, or B.1.617.2.1, has a mutation called K417N that is linked to high infectivity (ability of a pathogen to establish an infection) and has been associated with the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa. The AY.1 is also closely associated with the B.1.617.2, or Delta variant, first detected in India.
Five Indian laboratories submitted data on this variant in May and June to GISAID, a global repository of genomic data on influenza virus, The Hindu reported. Evidence of the mutant have been found in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Karnataka, according to the newspaper.
The Delta variant, which has been classified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, was responsible for the devastating second wave of the pandemic in India, a government study showed earlier this month. The variant has led to surge in cases in the United Kingdom too, accounting for majority of the new infections. The country’s health body Public Health England has found the strain to be 60% more transmissible in households than the Alpha variant, first detected in the Britain’s Kent county.