At a press conference on Thursday (24 Jun), the Ministry of Health (MOH) director of medical services Kenneth Mak said that Delta Plus, the latest coronavirus variant of concern, has not been detected in Singapore.
A variant of concern is one that shows evidence of higher transmissibility and virulence, leading to more infections.
“For every case that we diagnose, where possible, we will be carrying out phylogenetic studies and (we will) look out for the specific variant causing these infections, and we will certainly be on the lookout for any Delta Plus variant as it has been reported,” Mak replied in response to media enquiries.
Delta Plus is the Delta variant of the coronavirus with an additional mutation in a particular spike protein K417N. The Delta variant was first detected in India last year, while Delta Plus was detected in April also in India.
There are currently 2 versions of Delta Plus – the AY1 version that has been reported mainly in Europe, and the AY2 version that has been reported in various places including the US.
Delta Plus is now found in other countries including the United States, Britain, Japan, Portugal and Nepal.
Scientists are worried that the additional mutation in Delta Plus, coupled with other existing features of the Delta variant, could make it even more transmissible.
“It is Beta’s K417N mutation that is believed to help the virus dodge neutralising antibodies — a vital part of our immune system’s defences,” Dr Sally Cutler, a microbiologist from the University of East London, wrote earlier this month.
“This means it can make vaccines and antibody drugs less effective, and increase the risk of reinfection.”
India’s health ministry has also stated that the mutation K417N has been reported to have an immune evasion property. This mutation was known to reduce the effectiveness of a cocktail of antibodies used to treat COVID-19.
The variant binds more strongly to lung cells and being potentially resistant to treatment and vaccines as well as immunity from previous COVID-19 infection.
Yesterday, there were 9 imported cases, of which 6 were travellers from South Asia.