UK Is Monitoring 'Delta Plus' Mutation

Country just had its biggest one-day jump in COVID cases in 3 months
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2021 2:42 PM CDT
UK Is Monitoring 'Delta Plus' Mutation
This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles.   (NIAID-RML via AP)

Some 10 months after British authorities said they were keeping an eye on a COVID variant that became known as alpha, experts say they are now monitoring a mutation in the delta variant. The AY.4.2 mutation—also known as "delta plus," was first detected in India in May and it now makes up more than 6% of new cases in Britain. Authorities in the UK say they are monitoring the strain and while it appears to have some survival advantages over the normal delta variant, it does not appear to be significantly more transmissible, the BBC reports. "It's nothing compared with what we saw with alpha and delta, which were something like 50 to 60% more transmissible," says Francois Balloux, director of University College London's Genetics Institute.

"We are talking about something quite subtle here and that is currently under investigation," Balloux says. "It is likely to be up to 10% more transmissible." At this stage, Balloux says, "I would say wait and see, don't panic. It might be slightly, subtly more transmissible but it is not something absolutely disastrous like we saw previously." It's not clear whether the delta offshoot is linked to a recent surge in COVID cases in the UK, which lifted most restrictions in July. Ravi Gupta, a professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge, tells the Guardian that the rise in cases probably has more to do with the fact that Britain "has fundamentally failed to control transmission" than the mutation.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called for "urgent research" of the mutation, noting that on Sunday, Britain saw its biggest one-day jump in COVID cases since July, Bloomberg reports. "There’s no clear indication that it’s considerably more transmissible, but we should work to more quickly characterize these and other new variants," Gottlieb tweeted. He added that the mutation should be a "reminder that we need robust systems to identify, characterize new variants," as already happens with the flu. (More coronavirus stories.)

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