Concerns about AY.4.2 - a sub-variant of the Delta strain

AY.4.2 is thought to be 10-15% more contagious than the original Delta variant, but it's too early to say for sure if this is what's causing the number of Covid-19 cases in the UK strong growth or not.

Paramedics transport patients at the Royal London Hospital. Photo Reuters
Paramedics transport patients at the Royal London Hospital. Photo Reuters

The recently discovered AY.4.2 mutation of the Delta strain is under investigation in the UK. There are concerns that this mutation makes the virus more contagious, even able to evade vaccines. Even so, much is still unknown about the Delta strain subvariant and AY.4.2 has not yet been considered a 'worrying variant'.

According to British health officials, it is still too early to say whether the new Delta mutation poses a greater threat than the original Delta variant. The Detla variant is considered to be more infectious than the original strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus such as Alpha.

However, British authorities are still closely monitoring the AY.4.2 mutation because this mutation accounts for 6% of Covid-19 cases sequenced at a time when the number of cases is increasing sharply again in the country. .

What is the sub-variant AY.4.2?

The virus is constantly mutating, and the corona virus discovered in China at the end of 2019 has also mutated many times making it a more contagious virus. This was credited with the Alpha variant (first sequenced in the UK) as it spread globally before other more dominant variants such as the Delta variant were first discovered in India.

Delta was listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a "worrying variant" in May 2021 and is still the dominant variant globally.

However, last week, the UK health security agency released a report saying that "a sub-variant of the Delta strain called AY.4.2 is currently spreading in the UK".

AY.4.2 is detected among the growing number of Covid-19 cases in the UK.

"In the week from September 27, 2021, this sub-variant accounted for about 6% of all samples sequenced, and is likely to continue to increase," the UK health security agency said. This estimate may not be accurate. Further assessments are underway.”

The UK recorded about 40,000-50,000 new cases of Covid-19 every day in the last week. This makes experts question why the UK is still strongly affected by the Covid-19 epidemic at this time.

AY.4.2 is thought to be 10-15% more contagious than the original Delta variant, but it is too early to say for sure if this is what is causing the number of Covid-19 cases in the UK strong growth or not.

Why does AY.4.2 worry many people?

Although AY.4.2 is being closely monitored by the UK, this sub-variant has not yet been classified by WHO as a "variant under investigation" or a "variant of concern". The reason may be that AY.4.2 has not been identified to have genetic mutations that lead to changes in viral properties such as spread, ability to cause severe disease, ability to evade the immune system, or other medical conditions. treatment…

There is also no information confirming AY.4.2 significant community transmission or clusters of Covid-19 cases.

The discovery of a more contagious variant worries many because it could increase the number of Covid-19 cases in unvaccinated people.

According to Our World in Data, only 2.8% of the population in low-income countries have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine while developed countries have also recorded many breakthrough infections due to immunity. Covid-19 begins to decline about 6 months after being fully vaccinated.

A more contagious variant would also affect the effectiveness of vaccines, although there is no evidence that AY.4.2 is in this case.

What do the experts say about AY.4.2?

So far, health officials have not expressed concern about the Delta sub-variant and say it is important to continue to monitor this mutation rather than panic.

Commenting on "Delta Plus" on October 20, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rochelle Walensky said that the US has also recorded this sub-variant but so far, there has been no increase. increase in the number of Covid-19 cases due to AY.4.2

In addition to the US, Israel has also confirmed a case of Covid-19 due to sub-variant A.Y.4.2 in an 11-year-old boy who entered the country at Ben Gurion airport. On October 21, Russia also recorded a number of infections with sub-variants A.Y.4.2.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister's office urged people to remain calm, and said that AY.4.2 is currently being closely monitored, but there is no evidence that this sub-variant is more contagious than the Delta strain. origin.

"We are closely monitoring this sub-variant and will not hesitate to take action if necessary," the spokesperson said.

British authorities do not want to re-impose anti-Covid-19 restrictions, although many medical experts fear that hospitals could face the risk of being overwhelmed when winter approaches.

Andrew Pollard, who leads the Oxford Vaccine Group and helped develop the AstraZeneca/University of Oxford vaccine, says Delta's sub-variant won't change the Covid-19 picture.

Meanwhile, London-based immunology professor Danny Altmann said the sub-variant needed to be closely monitored and carefully controlled.

“Given Delta has been the dominant variant in some regions for the past six months or so, and no other variant has emerged, it is expected that Delta could be the peak mutation of the virus. But AY.4 has begun to raise doubts about this,” warned Mr. Altman.

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