First two cases of Delta plus variant surface in Punjab

Published on Jun 26, 2021 01:41 AM IST

There are 48 cases of this “variant of concern” spread across 11 states, the Union health ministry said on Friday, adding that the maximum (20) cases had been reported from Maharashtra

A health workers collect swab samples during a Covid-19 testing camp at Baghu village in Bathinda. (Sanjeev Kumar/HT)
A health workers collect swab samples during a Covid-19 testing camp at Baghu village in Bathinda. (Sanjeev Kumar/HT)
ByMohit Khanna, Ludhiana

Two cases of the ‘Delta plus’ variant – a mutated version of the more aggressive B.1.617.2 or ‘Delta’ strain of the Covid-19 that drove the second wave of infections in India – have surfaced in Punjab, according to the Union health ministry.

There are 48 cases of this “variant of concern” spread across 11 states, the ministry said on Friday, adding that the maximum (20) cases had been reported from Maharashtra.

“While nine case have been detected in Tamil Nadu, seven in Madhya Pradesh, three in Kerala, two in Gujarat, and one case each in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, and Karnataka,” says Sujit Singh, director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), that is involved in genome sequencing of the coronavirus in the country.

Identified as B.1.617.2.1, this strain is characterised by the K417N mutation in the spike protein of the virus. The spike protein is what helps the virus infect human cells, and K417N has been associated with immune escape, or evasion, that leaves the virus more immune to vaccines or drugs.

“We have received the reports of the samples sent for genome sequencing this evening. The presence of delta plus variant has been confirmed in one case that belongs to Ludhiana,” said state’s nodal officer for Covid Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, adding that the details of the other case are awaited.

“The 68- year- old patient, a resident of Jand village in Pakhowal tehsil, had given his samples on June 13. These were sent for genome sequencing to NIV Pune which confirmed the presence of delta plus variant,” added Bhaskar.

“The patient, who had no travel history and did not require any hospitalisation, was cured in home isolation. However, as per the Covid protocol, we had conducted the RT-PCR tests of the entire villages and the surrounding area. We have also carried out the vaccination drive in the entire village as well. As we have received the report, further action will be taken,” said Dr Kiran Ahliwalia, Ludhiana civil surgeon.

The highly contagious delta variant was behind the second wave in the state. Of 478 samples sent for genome sequencing test in the month of May, the strain was found in 440 samples while the alpha variant (B.1.1.7) of the UK strain was found in 16 samples.

Bhaskar said the delta variant was found in 92 % of samples, while alpha variant was found in only 3% of samples. As many as 30 samples have been sent for testing this month and the results are awaited, he added.

Senior cardiologist Dr Bishav Mohan, who is a member of the Punjab government’s Covid taskforce said the state was hit by the two different variants of the virus. “At the beginning of the year, we saw UK variant. The delta variant was witnessed in April and May and it resulted in more hospitalisations.” (with agency inputs)

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