Covid-19 Delta Variant Explained—Is It The Deadliest Coronavirus?

We have been dealing with Covid for a year and a half now. Despite the global vaccination drive and following Covid-19 guidelines of social distancing, sanitizing, and respecting quarantine, there is a new mutation of the coronavirus that has spread across the globe. The Delta variant is highly infectious and more potent than the earlier strains of Covid-19.

By Dr Suneetha Narreddy
06 Jul 2021

The Delta variant is a mutation of the Sars-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19. A study on 100 healthcare workers in New Delhi found that not only is the Delta variant more infectious; it is eight times less sensitive to antibodies generated by the Covid-19 vaccine when compared to the original Wuhan strain. This strain of the coronavirus was first identified in India last year. Dr Suneetha Narreddy, MD, Infectious Disease Specialist, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad shares what you need to know about the Delta variant and the Delta Plus variant.


What is the Delta variant?

Any living being be it, humans, animals or viruses undergo mutations. As they undergo mutations, they evolve with various properties in them. And, one such mutation has resulted in the Delta variant. There are other variants as well. There is Alpha variant, Beta variant, which came earlier and now after the Delta variant, we have the Covid-19 Lambda variant. These are all various mutations that happen to the virus. The virus is able to survive enough that we are able to pick them up.


Is the Delta variant dangerous?

This was considered different and is regarded as a variant of concern for a reason. Because the delta virus has the ability to transmit itself from a person to person much more than the regular covid-19 virus. It has 4 times more probability of spread as compared to the virus.


How effective are Covid vaccines against the Delta variant?

If you think about why a vaccine may not work or medicine like a monoclonal antibody may not work consider this: when you take a monoclonal antibody, it attaches to the spike protein of the virus. But, in the case of the Delta variant, the change in the virus is not at the spike protein.
Similarly, if you talk about the vaccine, the vaccine acts on the spike protein of the virus. Because the vaccine and the monoclonal antibody work on the spike protein, and the Delta variant has no change in the spike protein, so we anticipate that the vaccines or the medicines should work.
When we have done research on this, if you take the mRNA Pfizer vaccine, the first dose has 30-35 percent efficacy for the Delta variant and over 80 percent efficacy after the second dose. If you take the covid shield vaccine, where we have some data, we have again, the first vaccine gives about 30 percent efficacy and second vaccine if given earlier in course, that is after a month later, has efficacy of over 60-70 percent. So, yes the vaccines do work and the medicines do work. Though we have to be careful of newer versions of Covid-19 coming up.

What is the Delta plus variant?

The Delta plus variant is another mutation that has occurred on the Delta variant. There are many questions. Will this spread more? Will it have more toxicity? Does it cause more damage to the lungs and to the brain? All these are questions we keep asking ourselves.
We do not have answers to all these questions but more importantly, what we have to realise is that we have to prevent these variants from coming. How do you do that?

The only way you can prevent these coronavirus variants from coming is to make sure that the amount of virus in the community is less so that the virus does not replicate. As long as the virus is replicating, new versions will keep coming up.

So, how do you prevent coronavirus from evolving?

By taking vaccines, following Covid-19 precautions and following appropriate covid behaviour—which is making sure you are masked all the time. Vaccines are very important. I would urge everyone to go and get their vaccines today.


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