Delta variant could have originated in places other than India: Research


NEW DELHI :

There is a possibility that the origin of the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus could be more than just India, scientists have indicated in a new research. 

“… the first sequence of Delta variant was from the Netherlands, which was collected in June 2020 according to the GISAID or global initiative on sharing avian flu data, a global science initiative that provides open-access to genomic data of influenza viruses and the coronavirus responsible for the covid-19 pandemic,” said the study that has been published in the latest issue of Journal of Autoimmunity.

To explain how Delta Plus variant has a distinct mutation profile compared to the Delta variant, scientists analyzed protein sequences for more than 300,000 covid-19 samples of the two emerging variants around the world. Delta variant is believed to be behind the second wave of covid-19 infections in India.

Using bioinformatics tools and programming, the team identified five specific mutations that are far more prevalent in Delta Plus infections compared to Delta infections, including one mutation, K417N, that is present in all Delta Plus infections but not in nearly any Delta infections.

“The antibody evasion by the virus through specific mutation may contribute to the greater transmutability of the virus. Using structural data, we presented atomic details showing possible ways the virus can use and escape antibodies. While our analysis is detailed, new mutations in these variants may emerge in the future,” the authors said.

Delta Plus, which first emerged in India, reached the US through England and Japan. Based on the results presented, it is clear that the Delta and Delta Plus variants have unique mutation profiles, and the Delta Plus variant is not just a simple addition of K417N to the Delta variant. Highly correlated mutations may have emerged to keep the structural integrity of the virus, the research showed.

The findings provide important clues to researchers about the structural changes to the virus recently and highlight the need to expand the toolbox in the fight against covid-19, the scientists said.

“Whether it is natural antibodies produced from previously having covid-19 or the antibodies produced from the vaccine, we are showing structurally how dangerous and clever the virus is by being able to mutate in a way that the antibodies don’t seem to recognize and defend against these new variants,” Austin Spratt co-author of the study said.

“These findings help explain why there have been so many people testing positive for the Delta variants despite being vaccinated or having previously been infected with covid-19,” said Spratt.

Scientists have called for antiviral drugs to combat the pandemic. “While covid-19 vaccines have been effective, another possible tool in responding to the pandemic could be the development of antiviral drugs that target specific areas of the virus that remain unchanged by mutations,” Kamlendra Singh, author of the study said. Singh is a professor at Bond Life Sciences Center, University of Missouri, Columbia.

“If we can develop small molecule drugs that target the part of the virus that does not mutate, that will be the ultimate solution for combatting the virus,” he said.

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