Coronavirus undergoes mutations to protect itself from the human immune response. The mutation is the change or alteration in the gene structure, which is passed on to the future generations of coronavirus.
The studies have confirmed that coronavirus makes slight changes in its genetic composition, giving rise to the so-called ‘Vairants’ of coronavirus.
To name a few, we have : Alpha (B.1.1.7), Beta (B.1.351), Gamma (P.1), and Delta (B.1.617.2) variants. These mutations change the behavior of the virus, which could be harmful to humans.
A new variant of coronavirus, suspected to bring the third wave in India is the ‘Delta-Plus’ variant (B.1.617.2.1/ AY.1). It is named ‘Delta-Plus’ due to its close link with the earlier ‘Delta’ variant.
A virus is said to be a ‘Variant of Concern’ if it
a) spreads at a higher rate among people,
b) causes a severe form of the disease (i.e increase in hospitalization and death of patients affected with the virus),
c) escapes immune response to a greater extent (i.e human immune cells cannot easily kill the virus) or certain life-saving medications cannot effectively treat virus-infected people.
All these characteristics are said to be present in the ‘Delta-Plus’ variant, which makes it a ‘Variant of Concern’.