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India’s Covid variant makes up a fifth of US cases as new ‘Delta Plus’ mutation emerges

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Testing for Covid (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Testing for Covid (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

India is warning of a new "Delta plus" mutation emerging from the Ganges River variant that the Centres for Disease Control says is seen in more than 20 per cent of all new cases in the United States.

CDC director Rochelle Walensky said during the White House Covid-19 briefing that the delta variant doubled in the past week to account for more than a fifth of new cases. It was just 3 per cent several weeks ago.

"This is concerning but expected, knowing what we do about how efficiently this variant spreads, and by what we saw in the United Kingdom with this variant," she said.

"We know our vaccines work against this variant, however, this variant represents a set of mutations that could lead to future mutations that evade our vaccine."

Her comments came as virologists began warning of the new mutation of a mutation to emerge from the subcontinent.

The so-called Delta Plus, or Ay.01 mutation, contains characteristics of the original Delta variant (B.1.617.2) and also of the mutation known as K417N, which was discovered in the Beta variant from South Africa.

“It’s well-established that the Beta variant of concern evades vaccines much better than the Alpha variant or even the Delta variant,” Indian professor Shahid Jameel told India Today.

“We hardly have cases to establish the Delta Plus variant as a variant of concern in the Indian population. In India, 20 cases out of 25,000 sequences are nothing. More sequencing is needed to determine,” he added.

Delta Plus was first detected in India on 5 April but the mutation was not formally acknowledged until being publicly reported as K417N in a Public Health England bulletin on 11 June, when it identified 63 cases in Canada, Germany, Russia, Nepal, Switzerland, India, Poland, Portugal and Japan.

By 16 June that number grew to 197 cases with the most in the United States (83) and Britain (36), and new countries joining the list including Turkey,

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement to Reuters they’re tracking the variant as with other "variants of concern".

"For the moment, this variant does not seem to be common, currently accounting for only a small fraction of the Delta sequences ... Delta and other circulating Variants of Concern remain a higher public health risk as they have demonstrated increases in transmission," the statement said.

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