British scientists are looking at a mutant variant of the Delta variant, which already accounts for six percent of newly detected coronavirus infections in the country. It is probably spreading a bit faster than the current dominant variant, British media reported on Tuesday.
The AY.4.2 variant, sometimes called Delta Plus, was first identified in July. It has several spike mutations that the virus uses to penetrate the human body, possibly making it more capable of transmission.
Coronavirus. Delta variant
For now, AY.4.2 has not been considered a worrying option, but according to Professor Francois Balloux, director of the genetics institute at London University College, that will likely change soon.
Balloux and fellow scientist Jeffrey Barrett of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative believe AY.4.2 is spreading 10-15 percent faster than the original Delta variant, which is currently dominant in the world. This would make it the fastest-spreading strain of the coronavirus.
But the researchers point out that this is a small percentage gain over previous coronavirus variants – the Alpha’s transmission was 50 percent faster than the original Chinese-derived variant, and Delta is spreading 60 percent faster than Alpha.
– This is a potentially more infectious strain. This is not much compared to what we saw in the Alpha and Delta variants, which were around 50 to 60 percent more infectious. It’s likely to be up to 10 percent more contagious, so we’re talking about a fairly subtle difference, and it’s currently under research. At this stage, I would say: let’s wait and see, let’s not panic, ‘said Balloux, who is quoted by the BBC, but stipulated that nothing can be prejudged.
AY.4.2 is one of approximately 45 variants of the Delta variant that have been identified worldwide, but are currently mainly detected in the UK. A few cases have been detected in the US and a number in Denmark as well, but the number of new infections with this strain in the country has decreased.
Main photo source: Andy Rain / EPA / PAP