Can't say Delta Plus is spreading rapidly: Former ICMR head Dr Raman Gangakhedkar
The former chief of Indian Council of Medical Research, Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, on Saturday said there is not enough data to claim that Delta Plus is spreading rapidly in the country. More data is required to comment on its virulence and probable antibody-escape characteristics, Dr Gangakhedkar said. On Saturday, Tamil Nadu reported the first death due to the Delta Plus variant o Covid-19 as a Madurai patient detected with the variant succumbed to the virus. At least 12 states in the country, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Punjab, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, J&K, Haryana and Karnataka have reported this variant.
The mutant alone may not prove to be very harmful, Dr Gangakhedkar said. "This mutant was also present in the variants found in South Africa. This particular mutation was also seen with a few other mutations. The most important mutation among them was N501y. Two together were able to evade the vaccine response and produce escape mutants but if K417N is alone, then it would not be so powerful to escape vaccine response," the scientist said.
Then why has it been classified as a variant of concern? "As Delta is a variant of concern, its all other mutations will be classified as variants of concern," Dr Gangakhedkar said.
The Union health ministry on Friday said that the cases are very localised as of now to comment on the nature and the spread of the variant. Though more and more states are reporting the Delta variant, it can't be said that the variant is spreading as many of these cases are from April, May, which proves that the variant was there in the country for the past two months.
Dr Gangakhedkar said that Delta Plus is a low transmissible strain and if it continues to remain so, then it will not replace the Delta variant, which is the predominant one now.
Eight states have been alerted as this new variant has come to the surface. The effectiveness of the existing vaccines against this variant is also being tested, the Indian Council of Medical Research said.