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(CNN) – India’s Health Ministry on Tuesday designated another variant of covid-19, delta plus, as a “variant of concern.”
Delta plus is a version of the delta variant of the covid-19 virus first identified in India. This new variant has been detected in three states of India so far, according to a statement from the Ministry.
The new variant, which the Indian government also refers to as AY.1 or B.1,617.2,1, has been submitted to the Global Data System, according to a government statement. It has been detected in 22 patients in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, Indian Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said during a news conference on Tuesday. Sixteen of the 22 cases were found in the western Indian state of Maharashtra alone, he said.
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The Indian government advised those states to immediately adopt containment measures, improved testing, monitoring and vaccination in the districts and clusters where the variant is found.
WHO studies the delta plus variant
Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on covid-19, said WHO is tracking the ‘delta plus’ variant to determine its transmissibility and severity.
“What we are doing with our virus evolution working group is looking at these specific mutations and what they mean in terms of transmission, in terms of severity and, importantly, what they mean in terms of our medical countermeasures.” Van Kerkhove said.
Samples of the Delta Plus variant will be sent to India’s SARS-COV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG) for analysis, the Health Ministry said.
The Indian government previously regarded the delta plus variant as an “interest variant”.
According to INSACOG, the delta plus variant exhibits several worrisome traits, such as increased transmissibility, stronger binding to lung cell receptors, and a possible reduction in the monoclonal antibody response.
The virus is already in other countries
The delta plus variant of the coronavirus is reported primarily outside of India, the country’s Press Information Office reported in a statement on Wednesday.
The variant is being reported in 9 countries in addition to India, which currently only has 40 registered cases. The Indian government report did not list which countries are reporting or how many cases there are, but indicated that they were in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
However, the government of India says that while the number of detected cases is low, “the distribution / detection in various states during the last two months or more indicated that variant B.1,617.2,1 (AY.1) it is already present in some states that may need to improve their public health response by focusing on surveillance, improved testing, rapid contact tracing and priority vaccination in defined geographies where AY.1 has been detected ”.