With cases of the Delta Plus variant of Covid-19 getting reported from various parts of the country, the Union Health Ministry said on Monday that lab test results of the effectiveness of the Covid vaccine on the new mutant will be out in 10 days.
“Tests to check vaccine effectiveness on Delta Plus variant are ongoing. The virus has been isolated and is being cultured now at ICMR’s National Institute of Virology in Pune. The results will be available in 7 to 10 days. These will be the first such results in the world,” the ministry said.
Covishield and Covaxin vaccines work against SARS-CoV-2 variants Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, while their effectiveness against the Delta Plus is being tested, the ministry said.
As per the latest data, 90 per cent of the samples tested have been found to have Delta variants (B.1.617). However, the B.1.1.7 strain, which was the most prevalent variant in India in the initial days of the pandemic, has decreased.
The Delta Plus variant has an additional mutation in comparison to the Delta variant; this mutation has been named the K417N mutation. ‘Plus’ means an additional mutation has happened to the Delta variant. It does not mean that the Delta Plus variant is more severe or highly transmissible as compared to the Delta variant.
The Delta Plus variant has been classified as ‘Variant of Concern’ because of its increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells, potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response, and potential post vaccination immune escape.
The Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), coordinated by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) along with the Union Health Ministry, ICMR and CSIR, monitors the genomic variations in SARS-CoV-2 on a regular basis through a pan-India multi-laboratory network. It was set up with 10 national labs in December 2020 and has been expanded to 28 labs and 300 sentinel sites from where genomic samples are collected.
The INSACOG hospital network looks at samples and informs INSACOG about the severity, clinical correlation, breakthrough infections and re-infections.
More than 65,000 samples have been taken from different states and processed, while nearly 50,000 samples have been analysed of which 50 per cent have been reported to be ‘Variants of Concern’.