Health experts in Karachi have discovered a new mutation of coronavirus’ Delta variant – Delta wild or Delta Plus.
On Monday, the city reported six cases of the “Delta wild” variant, the province’s health secretary, QasimSoomro, confirmed.
According to the World Health Organisation, the Delta Plus/wild variant contains a new mutation in the spike protein of the novel coronavirus. It enters human cells and is called K417N.
Closely linked to the Delta variant, the new mutation has been named “Delta Plus” by the WHO’s naming system for COVID-19 variants. So far, the Delta Plus variant has been reported in relatively low numbers across the world.
“Covid-19 keeps mutating in the environment and Delta Plus/wild is its new mutation,” Dr Jamil Muqtadir, infectious diseases consultant at Karachi’s Ziauddin Hospital said. “The only way to battle the new highly mutating Covid-19 strain is to strictly follow safety measures.”
The Delta Plus/wild variant has increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells (suggesting easier entry into human cells), and a potential reduction in response to monoclonal antibodies. This means that people’s immune systems may be less effective against this variant and less responsive to life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments.
Monoclonal antibodies refer to human-made substances that act like natural antibodies. Human-made antibodies have previously been used to treat conditions such as certain cancers and some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Multiple monoclonal antibodies have been developed by pharmaceutical companies to treat Covid-19 patients in hospitals.
The wild variant contains an additional mutation called K417N on the coronavirus spike, the same genetic mutation that was found on the Beta and Gamma variants. The Beta variant, which originated in South Africa, was linked to increased hospitalisation and deaths, while the Gamma variant, found in Brazil, was highly transmissible.
DrTipu Sultan, the former president of the Pakistan Medical Association, explained that the virus is tiny with a limited lifespan. “It keeps multiplying until it dies and mutates into a newer genetic makeup for better survival.”
The only way to fight the Covid-19 pandemic and new virulent strains is to follow SOPs, he stressed.