Public health chiefs monitoring new Delta strain ‘of extreme concern’ – symptoms to spot

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Since taking hold in May, the Delta variant of the coronavirus has been the driving force behind record hospital admissions in the UK. The fast spread of the now-dominant strain triggered a string of lockdowns and other restrictions around the world earlier this year. Now, a mutation of the strain, carrying the genetic mutation E484K, has broken out in Italy.

To date, the novel strain has been identified in 19 people in the UK and a further 99 around the world, according to reports in The i.

However, a recent outbreak among vaccinated pensioners in northern Italy has suggested the strain does not pose a threat to current immunisation efforts.

It has not been classified as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation due to its small numbers, however, researchers have warned that the strain “is likely to be of extreme concern because of theoretical increased immune escape.”

Researchers warned that the outbreak, which was detailed in a research letter published in Emerging Infectious Diseases, could see the variant take off as more people become vaccinated.

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The authors wrote: “The Delta variant of concern of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is dominant worldwide.

“We report a case cluster caused by Delta sub-lineage B.1.617.2 harbouring the mutation E484K in Italy during July 11-July 29, 2021.

“This mutation appears to affect the immune response and vaccine efficacy; monitoring its appearance is urgent.”

The paper also stated the occurrence of the Delta variant E484K was to be “largely expected” given the transmissible nature of the original variant.

Public Health England said last week: “We constantly monitor all data relating the SARS-CoV-2 variants in the UK and abroad.

“Delta with E484K is not a Variant Under Investigation or a Variant of Concern at this time.

“When cases are identified, health protection teams are informed so that they can take actions appropriate to the epidemiological situation.”

The outbreak emerged in a small village in northern Lombardy among a group of fully vaccinated pensioners, none of whom required hospital admission.

According to the paper, on July 11, 2021, a 41-year-old man from a small village in northern Lombardy began experiencing cough fever and malaise.

Researchers explained: “He fully recovered without the need for hospital admission; whole-genome sequencing confirmed B.1.617.2 that harboured E484K.

“His mother experienced fatigue, headache, myalgia and dispel beginning July 17 and tested positive on July 24.

“E484K mutation represents a critical evolutionary event that leads to immune escape, although its consequences on viral fitness are unclear.”

The highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus first emerged in India, before surging through the UK in May.

Studies have warned that unvaccinated people infected with the strain are twice as likely to be hospitalised as those who are unvaccinated.

Nearly half a million cases of the variant have been detected in the UK alone, where cases of the strain are higher than in any other country.

The Delta variant has caused substantial disruption to the easing of lockdowns both in the UK and others imposed around the world.

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