Scientists, however, say that the new variant is not a cause for concern at this time
Covid-19's highly infectious Delta variant, a version first detected in India, is feared to have mutated into a more virulent version now named AY.1 or Delta Plus.
Quoting scientists and experts, Indian media reported that the new variant has gained a mutation associated with escaping immunity, but there is "no cause for concern at this time."
The Delta Plus variation is a modified form of the more aggressive B.1.617.2 strain that was responsible for India's second wave of infections.
This new variant is also possibly capable of resisting even the monoclonal antibodies cocktail currently being prescribed as a cure, according to the reports.
These cocktails, Casirivimab and Imdevimab, are meant to prevent the virus from binding to human cells and entering the body and are similar to antibodies produced by the human body to fight sickness.
The K417N mutation in the spike protein of the Sars-CoV2 virus, which causes the Covid-19 disease, distinguishes the new variant.
The spike protein is responsible for the virus's ability to enter and infect human cells, and the K417N mutation has been linked to immune escape, or evasion, which makes it less sensitive to vaccination or any sort of drug therapy.
The development comes at a time when India has recorded the second-highest tally of Covid-19 infections in the world after the United States, with 29.51 million cases and 374,305 deaths until Tuesday.
Been around since March
The Delta Plus variant, according to the Indian government, has been around since March of this year, reports NDTV.
However, Dr VK Paul, a member (Health) of NITI Aayog, said that it is not a cause for concern at this time. "Its presence had been discovered and sent to the world data system."
According to Public Health England, 63 genomes of Delta (B.1.617.2) with the new K417N mutation have been identified so far, six of which are from India (as of June 7).
The UK has recorded 36 confirmed Delta Plus cases, and it accounts for about 6% of the cases in the US. Two UK cases were reported more than 14 days following the second vaccine dosage, indicating that they were “breakthrough” infections.
However, Anurag Agrawal, director of the CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) in Delhi, said there is no reason to be concerned because reports of the new variant are still rare and there is no indication of the disease's severity.
He also said that blood plasma from a number of completely vaccinated people would need to be tested against this variety to see if it exhibits any signs of infection.
Another CSIR-IGIB scientist, Vinod Scaria, said the K417N type was more common in Europe, America, and other Asian countries at the time.
The travel records were not readily available, making it risky to speculate on the extent to which it had spread, he added.