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AIIMS Chief Says New Delta Plus Variant Could Become A Variant Of Concern

India could see a faster surge if aggressive Covid-appropriate behaviour is not followed, AIIMS Chief Dr Randeep Guleria said. 

AIIMS Chief Dr Randeep Guleria has said that the Delta Plus variant, a mutated version of the more aggressive B.1.617.2 strain that propelled the massive second wave of infections in India, is undergoing additional mutation called K417N which could become a “variant of concern” if unchecked.

India could see a faster surge if aggressive Covid-appropriate behaviour is not followed, the renowned physician said. Dr Guleria also insisted on aggressive surveillance to guard against any spike in the Covid cases following unlocking in parts of the country.

In an interview to NDTV, Dr Guleria said: “Delta plus is a variant which is of same lineage as Delta variant, with a slight change as there is one more mutation found, which could be a cause of concern because this mutation, the K417N, is something which may change the virus to some extent as far as its infectivity is concerned. What we need to do is observe. Currently, the WHO has said that this is a variant of interest but it could become a variant of concern because currently the number of cases is less. Will this Delta plus again become the dominant variant that is something that we need to observe over the next few weeks.”

“We don’t need to take this virus casually. We need to understand this virus is changing and changing to survive and infect more and more people, therefore we have to be aggressive and try and be ahead of the virus. The UK did a very good job by having an aggressive lockdown for many many months and when they started opening up, the new variant, the delta variant, caused the surge in number of cases. What it means is we are also in a similar vulnerable situation and if we are not careful right now then 3 or 4 months from now, we will again have a similar situation and that is why we need to be very aggressive; it is mutating, changing, new variants are coming up,” he added.

Dr Guleria stressed that there is need to ramp up genome sequencing to see if there are more of Delta or Delta plus cases and how the virus is behaving in terms of these two variants in the community.

“We need an aggressive genome sequencing to see how the virus is behaving. Does the vaccine efficacy come down, does the monoclonal antibody treatment work? To do all of that, we need to have a large or very good network of labs to study the data. I think that’s where to move in the next few weeks. And that’s the new frontier we need to develop if we want to succeed in our fight against Covid,” he said.


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