Only one subline of the Delta variant of COVID-19, first detected in India, is still considered to be of “concern”, while two others have been demoted, the World Health Organization (WHO ).
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The B.1.617 variant, renamed Delta, and believed to be partially responsible for the outbreak of the pandemic in India, has since spread to more than 50 territories, with three distinct sublines.
The WHO had classified the entire variant as “of concern” last month, but said on Tuesday that only one subline should now be considered as such.
“It has become evident that more risks to the public are associated with B.1.617.2, while lower rates of transmission have been observed with the other sublineages,” said the WHO in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.
B.1.617.2 remains of concern, along with three other variants of the virus, considered more dangerous than the original version because it is more contagious, fatal or because vaccines may not offer protection against them.
The WHO had assigned Greek letters on Monday to the scientific names of the various variants such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, or Delta for the case of B.1.617. This initiative aims in particular to avoid “stigmatizing and discriminatory” names for the countries and territories where they have appeared.
“We continue to observe a marked increase in transmissibility and a growing number of countries reporting outbreaks linked to this variant”, notes the WHO, which considers “a priority” to conduct “new studies” on its impact.
A new hybrid variant, reported on Saturday by health authorities in Vietnam, appears to be a variation of Delta, said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, technical manager of the fight against COVID-19 at the agency on Tuesday.
“We know that B.1.617.2, from the Delta variant, has increased transmissibility, which means it can spread more easily between people,” she said.
The B.1.617.1 subline, on the other hand, was demoted to the category of “variant of interest”, and named Kappa.
As for B.1.617.3, it is no longer considered as interesting by the WHO and has not been assigned a Greek letter due to its relatively low occurrence.