A new COVID-19 strain is spreading across the globe, and it’s a mutation on the highly-contagious “Delta” variant that has been sending some countries back into lockdown.
Four cases of a new “Delta Plus” strain, which was first discovered in England, have been identified in Israel, according to The Jerusalem Post. It remains unclear whether or not the new variant is more infectious, more lethal or better at evading vaccines than the Delta variant.
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The Delta Plus strain was first reported by Public Health England on June 11, but is thought to have been in circulation there since at least April 26. Cases have been reported far and wide, from the U.K. and Israel to the U.S. and India. According to Prof. Cyrille Cohen, several hundred cases have been reported globally so far.
The mutation differentiating the Delta strain from Delta Plus is found in the virus’ spike protein. The mutation, called K147N, has been identified in other variants as well, and is believed to potentially contribute to “immune escape,” University College London Genetics Institute director Francois Balloux told CNN.
India’s COVID-19 genome sequencing labs are concerned the strain could be more transmissible and suppress antibody response, although the effect it could have on vaccine efficacy is still undetermined. (RELATED: Moderna Vaccine Protects Against COVID-19 Variants, Including Delta, Study Says)
While some experts have warned that the Delta variant poses substantial risk to the U.S., others argue that despite being more transmissible, it is not a major threat since it is still effectively combatted by vaccines and natural immunity. The greater concern lies in countries where vaccines are not yet widely available, and a highly transmissible strain like Delta or Delta Plus could wreak havoc.