Delta Subvariant AY.4.2 Detected in India: Is It More Infectious?

AY.4.2 strain of COVID-19 is detected in almost 10 percent of delta variant sequenced positive tests in England.

3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>Delta Plus variant is on rise in UK. How concerning are these new variants? Image used for representational purposes.</p></div>

India is on high alert as atleast 18-20 cases of a newly detected offshoot of the Delta variant called AY 4.2 have been found from over 19000 samples collected from Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Jammu and Kashmir between May end and mid-September, The Indian Express reported. The variant has been on a rise in the United Kingdom.

According to a briefing released earlier last week by the UK Health Security Agency, "A Delta sublineage newly designated as AY.4.2 is noted to be expanding in England", reported The Guardian.

In the week beginning from 27 September, AY.4.2 accounted for about 6 percent of sequenced COVID-19 cases and is "on an increasing trajectory", said the report.

The Quint answers all your questions about the variant.

What is AY.4.2 variant?

According to FIT, AY.4.2 is an offshoot of the Delta variant, which contains two mutations in its spike protein, that helps the virus to penetrate human blood cells.

AY.4.2 strain of COVID-19 now makes up almost 10 percent of delta variant sequenced positive tests in UK, said The Guardian.

Is the new variant more transmissible?

Dr Jeffrey Barrett, the director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute in Cambridge, and Prof Francois Balloux, the director of the University College London Genetics Institute, have suggested that AY.4.2 could be 10-15 percent more transmissible than the original Delta variant, according to The Financial Times.

Balloux urged caution indicating that the surge could be a demographic event as the variant is largely found in UK. The new variant was unlikely to be behind the recent rise in cases in UK, he told The Guardian.

It is nothing compared to what we saw with Alpha and Delta, which were like 50 to 60 percent more transmissible. So we are talking about something more subtle here and that is currently under investigation, Professor Francois Balloux told the BBC.

The rise in COVID-19 cases in UK is not because of the new variant as per scientists, said FIT.

Is AY.4.2 variant found in other places as well?

As per Cov-Lineages Organization, UK accounts 96 percent of the AY.4.2 cases, followed by Denmark and Germany at 1 percent each. It has been found in US, Israel and Russia as well. However, cases in countries other than UK are in very small numbers.

AY.4.2 cases have been detected in the state of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in India, as per DNA.


How can one protect themselves from the variant?

Vaccination is the best way to prevent any COVID-19 variant. In addition, one should take all safety precautions such as wearing a mask and maintaining hand hygiene.

Are vaccines effective against the new variant?

According to the Healthline, it is unlikely that the variant can evade all vaccine-related immunity.

Should this be a cause of worry for India?

It is not categorised as "variant of concern" by World Health Organization. According to The Indian Express, experts at the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium said that they have not observed any rise in COVID-19 cases due to AY.4.2.

Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director of Tata Institute for Genetics and Society at Bengaluru stated that, "We have not noticed any such eruption in cases due to AY.4.2. This is a sub-lineage of Delta and is defined by certain number of mutations. However, not all these changes have been found in the samples that have been sequenced. We are seeing a small number of AY.4.2. but there is no particular reason to worry."

(With inputs from The Guardian, The Financial Times, FIT , and The Indian Express)

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