KARACHI: As many as 65 cases of the Delta variant have been detected at a Karachi University (KU) research facility in two days, taking the total tally of this specific coronavirus strain in the city to 107 in the current month.

According to KU officials, the National Institute of Virology (NIV) processed a total of 2,062 samples received from the health department from July 12 to 13.

Out of the 163 samples found positive, 94 were randomly selected for genotyping, which revealed 65 Delta (India) variant cases — which makes 69 per cent of the total samples genotyped — two Beta (South Africa) variants, 25 unidentified variants and two cases of a wild-type variant.

“The 25 unidentified variants might be Delta plus variant — a mutation of the Delta variant — or a new variant,” said Prof Dr M. Iqbal Choudhary, director of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) at KU, in a statement.

Transmissibility of this variant is 50pc higher than other variants

The presence of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant had already been confirmed in Sindh and its local transmission was evident from the recently identified cluster, the statement added.

Earlier, the research facility had detected 35 Delta variant cases out of the 229 samples randomly selected for genotyping from June 25 to July 9; 12 cases pertained to areas in District East while 23 to District Central.

Sources said the total number of Delta variant cases recorded by the health department from June 1 till July 13 now stands at 131; earlier 42 cases were recorded in the current month while 24 in June.

The tests were largely conducted at Aga Khan University, NIV and National Institute of Health, Islamabad.

Last month, 24 cases of the Delta variant were recorded by the health department.

According to experts, the main features of this variant are increased transmissibility, more severe disease and a significant reduction in neutralisation of antibodies generated during previous infection or vaccination, and reduced effectiveness of treatments or vaccines.

“It’s more dangerous than other coronavirus variants and has become a major concern in several countries. Even in the US, the Delta variant currently constitutes 25pc of the total positive cases,” said Dr Atif Hafeez Siddiqui of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association, adding that the transmissibility of this particular variant was 50pc higher than other variants.

Asked about vaccines’ efficacy against this variant, he said while complete data on this subject wasn’t available, international figures suggested that Covid-19 vaccines such as Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna had 90pc efficacy against it.

“Though concrete data on Chinese vaccines is lacking, we know that the Delta variant has reached China’s Wuhan city and that no person has died of this variant there. Hence, we can say that the Chinese vaccines might not save from infection, it would help minimise chances of disease severity and mortality,” Dr Siddiqui pointed out.

About treatment, he said patients had high chances of recovery if diagnosed in time as some commonly available antiviral medicines had been found effective against this variant.

Meanwhile as many as 25 more patients of coronavirus died overnight and 1,466 new cases were registered when 15,201 tests were conducted, stated Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah in a statement issued here on Thursday.

The death of 25 patients lifted the death toll to 5,672 that constituted 1.6pc death rate.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2021

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