Experts keep a watchful eye on Delta subvariant


By Iffath Fathima

Known as the AY 4.2, this subvariant is causing a surge in cases in the UK

Health experts in Karnataka are keeping a cautious watch on the AY 4.2, a sub-lineage of the Delta variant. Reports say that the AY 4.2 has been expanding up to 10 per cent in England, and is largely responsible for the rise in number of covid cases in the UK currently.

The AY 4.2 belongs to the family of B.1.617.2 which caused the high number of cases during the second wave. Over 96 per cent of the samples that reported the AY 4.2 were sequenced in UK and 1 per cent in Germany and Denmark and has been reported even in Israel and Poland.

Dr Vishal Rao, Member of Genomic Surveillence Committee and Chief of Head and Neck Surgical Oncology and Robotic Surgery at HCG Cancer Centre said: “Delta has several forms ranging from AY1- AY13; one of them is AY 4. In the standard Delta variant, there is 100 per cent change in the spike protein. But in AY.4, the G142D mutation is present in only 26 percent of the sequences and 1.3 per cent in the AY.12 sequences. However, though the percentage is lesser, we cannot yet predict if it is a less aggressive variant. We are in touch with global committees across the globe to discuss the 13 sub-types of Delta; whether they have been so far behaving alike; if they are lethal, virulent and fatal.”

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In the last genomic sequencing done, more than 1,300 samples sequenced were reanalysed for the presence of AY 4.2, and so far, no AY 4.2 sub-variant has been found so far.

Though the mutations are less in AY 4 (variant of Delta), it does not mean we can relax as it can transform faster

–Dr Vishal Rao

Dr Rao added: “Now, the AY 4.2 is like a grand-son of the Delta variant found in UK. It is too early for us to celebrate that number of covid cases are low as data currently shows that virus is still mutating. Though the mutations are less in AY 4 (variant of Delta), it does not mean we can relax as it can transform faster. The AY 4.2 has already constituted 10 per cent of the cases in UK, and hence in Karnataka, we are being cautious.

“It is crucial for us to understand that there is a race between the vaccine and variant. Faster the vaccine succeeds; lesser the variants.”

Dr Rao pointed out that transmission-appropriate behaviour (where inoculation is key) is more important than covid-appropriate behaviour. “Till December, it will be a trial by fire as Diwali, Christmas, New Year are lined up, and during this period, the virus will not take rest. With the movement of people, super-spreader events may start.”



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