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This new delta subvariant is concerning, experts say

The delta variant subtype continues to spread. But it might not be worth worrying about yet

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An illustration representing the delta variant.

The delta variant subtype continues to spread. But it might not be worth worrying about yet.

Illustration by Alex Cochran, Deseret News

A delta variant subtype continues to spread throughout the world, raising questions about how concerned people should feel about the coronavirus mutation.

  • The subvariant — which makes up 10% of current cases in the United Kingdom — is called AY.4.2.

What is the new delta subvariant?

Early reports suggest the AY.4.2 variant can spread faster than the original delta variant, making it 10% more transmissible, as I wrote for the Deseret News.

  • The variant first appeared in the U.K. over the summer. It has two mutations to the spike protein, which is used to infiltrate people’s cells, per CNBC.
  • There are still questions about how the mutations will affect the transmissibility of the variant.

Should you be concerned about the subvariant?

Christina Pagel, director of the Clinical Operational Research Unit at University College London, told CNBC that there’s no major reason to be concerned over the new variant subtype.

  • “Delta compared to alpha was around 60% more transmissible, it was doubling every week. This is going up by a percent or two a week — it’s much, much slower. So in that sense, it’s not a big disaster like delta was. It will probably gradually replace delta over the next few months. But there’s no sign it’s more vaccine resistant, (so) at the moment I wouldn’t be panicking about it.”

Pagel said that the new subtype is only one of many. But this one is the only subtype that has the power to outlast the original delta variant.

  • “There are lots of different subtypes of delta, (but) this is the first subtype that seems to actually have an advantage over the other deltas,” Pagel said. “And it just shows that there’s more places for it to go and evolve to. Some people have been saying delta’s hit the sweet spot — well look, it’s found another sweet spot.”

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has called on scientists to do more research into the variant.

  • “We need urgent research to figure out if this delta plus is more transmissible, has partial immune evasion,” Gottlieb said in a tweet.
  • “There’s no clear indication that it’s considerably more transmissible, but we should work to more quickly characterize these and other new variants. We have the tools.”