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Is Delta Plus any more dangerous than Delta? Corona sub-variant continues to spread in Germany

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A new variant of the coronavirus is first detected in Great Britain is increasingly being detected in Germany. How serious is it? New data show the danger AY.4.2 could pose.

Delta Plus: The delta variant has dominated the pandemic in Germany since summer 2021 and is also responsible for most of the coronavirus infections worldwide. In the Great Britain, however, a new sub-variant of Delta was discovered in June, which is now being detected in more and more samples. What is known about AY.4.2 so far and what role it plays in Germany?

delta plus

12% of British corona cases are a delta sub-variant (Delta Plus)

The delta sub-variant AY.4.2 is now responsible for more than one in ten new infections in the Great Britain. This emerges from the large-scale React study by Imperial College London, the results of which have now been published.

According to this, 11.8 percent of 841 sequenced positive samples of the sub-variant AY.4.2. – also known as Delta Plus – can be assigned. In total, PCR tests from more than 100,000 people were evaluated for the study, of which almost 1,400 had a positive result.

According to the findings, the sub -variant is likely to spread faster than the previously predominant delta variant . Since the last study in September, the scientists calculated a daily increase in the AY.4.2.-share of 2.8 percent.


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Delta Plus Symptoms are less common

At the same time, symptomatic diseases are less common, the researchers found. The typical symptoms such as loss or change in the sense of smell and taste, fever and a long-lasting cough are therefore less common in infections with Delta Plus. Overall, the less frequent occurrence of symptoms is of course a good thing.

▶ How the sub-variant will affect the course of the pandemic cannot yet be estimated. Less symptomatic cases mean fewer infected cases would be detected. On the other hand, the absence of symptoms such as coughing can also reduce the risk of infection.

delta plus

Delta Plus increasingly detected in Germany

The sub-variant AY.4.2. has not yet been classified as a cause for concern by the World Health Organization ( WHO ), but is under surveillance.

It is now being increasingly detected in Germany. Since the first detection from the beginning of July to mid-November, 766 hits have been recorded, as the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced.

The proportion of the sub-variant has been relatively constant at around 1 percent in random samples over the past few weeks. Therefore, the RKI is currently assuming “that this variant cannot spread significantly more than other lines under the infection control measures prevailing in Germany”.

Other countries report some cases with AY.4.2

Other affected countries are, for example, Denmark, Ireland and numerous other European countries. Israel, the USA, Canada, Russia, India and Japan are currently the only non-European countries that have been able to detect the virus. In Germany, there is a very small proportion of new cases with AY.4.2.

However, it is also possible that the subtype is already present in a much stronger manner, but was not sequenced in samples. In Germany, for example, only a fraction of the samples are subjected to a genome analysis for reasons of time and money.

Delta Plus: Which questions are still open

▶ Not only is the exact distribution of the sub-variant unclear. Research is currently under way to find out how great the risk is that this virus variant poses. According to the British health authority, Delta Plus has been shown to be more contagious than the Delta variant – according to estimates by around ten percent. Here, too, older people in particular are at risk of developing a serious disease.

▶ The question of whether Delta Plus will prevail over the original Delta type also remains open. According to experts, this is unlikely. 

“Even if the Delta Plus subtype ends up being a bit more contagious, it will not displace the previously prevalent variant within a few weeks. If this sub-variant AY.4.2 prevails over Delta, it will take significantly longer than Delta versus Alpha because the transmission is only slightly higher” – NDR podcast “Coronavirus Update.

Delta Plus
Sandra Ciesek, Director of the Institute of Virology at the University Hospital Frankfurt

Do the corona vaccines also work against Delta Plus?

The good news: All vaccines against Covid-19 approved in Germany are also effective against Delta Plus. Complete vaccination protection is required. 

According to the RKI, only this can adequately counteract any form of the delta variant. Experts are therefore currently not concerned about the spread of Delta Plus. The much bigger problem is the low vaccination rate in Germany.


Sources:

  • Robert Koch Institute (RKI)
  • NDR podcast “Coronavirus Update” from October 26, 2021
  • News agencies dpa, AFP
  • BBC: “Covid-19: New mutation of Delta variant under close watch in UK”, October 19, 2021

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