COVID-19: Improved contact tracing and testing for ‘Delta plus’ variant after 41 cases identified in UK

COVID-19: Improved contact tracing and testing for ‘Delta plus’ variant after 41 cases identified in UK

Measures including improved contact tracing and testing were put in place after the UK identified dozens of cases of the ‘Delta plus’ variant.

Speaking this afternoon, the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said the government and Public Health England put the precautions in place when the new coronavirus variant had been identified.

He added that 41 cases had been found in the UK and that “improved contact tracing, testing and isolation” were among the measures taken.

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Variant cases were identified in the East Midlands, London, the North West, the South East, the South West and the West Midlands as of June 14.

He was first sequenced in the UK on April 26, and the first five people identified with him had been in contact with people who have traveled through or from Nepal and Turkey.

These cases all occurred in the West Midlands.

The Delta plus variant is similar to the original Delta strain, with an additional mutation called K417N.

Indian officials have said the strain appears to be more transmissible than the base Delta – or B.1.617.2 – variant.

The country has called the strain a “variant of concern” after 16 cases were found in the state of Maharashtra.

However, François Balloux, professor of computer systems biology and director of University College London Genetics Institute, says there is less to worry about.

Professor Balloux said: ‘The cases of the Delta plus variant in the UK remain at a very low level. The first case was observed on April 28, 2021. The line has remained at a very low frequency since then with no signs of expansion. “

The scientist added that the low number of cases of this variant wherever it has appeared “strongly suggests that it is not more transmissible than its ancestor Delta.”

Public Health England’s latest variant report – released on Friday but only recently came to attention – confirms that 41 of the 75,953 cases of Delta variants sequenced in the UK had the K417N mutation.

Besides India, the PHE document indicated that cases of the strain had also been identified in other countries, with one in Canada, 15 in Japan, three in Nepal, nine in Poland, 22 in Portugal, one in Russia, 18 in Switzerland. , one in Turkey and 83 in the United States.

Professor Balloux says this type of mutation has appeared several times during the pandemic – including in the beta variant first identified in South Africa.

He added: “The [K417N] The mutation may contribute to immune evasion, although its impact on transmissibility is unclear.

“None of the bloodlines that carry it (except Beta) have been particularly successful so far. “

Experts have said repeatedly that the coronavirus will constantly mutate over time, with some variants posing a risk because they could evade the immune system.

PHE said two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are effective against the Delta variant – but more data is needed on another mutation.

Speaking at a press conference in Downing Street on Wednesday, PHE immunization manager Dr Mary Ramsay said she was ‘not convinced’ that the Delta variant had symptoms that were different from others. strains of COVID.

Pressed by people saying sneezing was a symptom of the new variant, she replied, “I’ve seen the data you’re talking about that there might be a slightly different symptom rate with Delta – I’m not yet personally convinced myself.

“I think one of the issues with these very common symptoms is that they’re quite difficult to convincingly link to the infection.

“But I think the key message is that people are tested without symptoms and that’s because we know that this infection causes asymptomatic disease quite often and a lot of our testing is now done on asymptomatic people with it. lateral flow tests, etc.

Dr Mary Ramsay (left) said she expects the vaccine to work against the new ‘Delta plus’ variant

“So I don’t think there is any evidence that we are missing more cases with this variant than the other variants that came before it. “

Dr Ramsay also said she expects vaccines to continue to work against the new ‘Delta plus’ variant and officials are ‘on top of the game’.

“We are obviously around these cases, we will do improved testing and improved follow-ups,” she said.

“The right message is that what we expected with Delta is that the vaccines would always prove effective against the most serious disease and we expect the same for this other variant.

“There is also the possibility of having a different vaccine in the future and that is something that we will have to continue to monitor. ”


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