According to scientists, AY.4.2, a sub-variant of the Covid Delta strain, may be up to 15% more transmissible than the original Delta.
According to the Daily Mail, AY.4.2 accounted for nearly 10% of all infections in England in the two weeks ending October 9.
Its prevalence in England more than doubled in a month, from 4% in September to 8.9% in the two weeks to October 9, according to scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.
According to the report, AY.4.2, one of Delta’s 45 sub-lineages known as Delta plus by many, is likely to be renamed Nu.
Professor Francois Balloux, director of the University College London Genetics Institute, was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that the strain could be the most infectious subvariant seen since the pandemic began.
According to Balloux, the World Health Organization will likely elevate AY.4.2 to a “variant under investigation,” which means it will be given a name using its Greek letter naming system.
He did note, however, that because the UK is the only country where the sub-lineage has “taken off,” its rapid growth could be a “chance demographic event.”
“The emergence of yet another more transmissible strain would be suboptimal. Though, this is not a situation comparable to the emergence of Alpha and Delta that were far more transmissible — 50 per cent or more — than any strain in circulation at the time,” Balloux said.
“Here we are dealing with a potential small increase in transmissibility that would not have a comparable impact on the pandemic.”
The number of new Covid infections in the UK has risen to around 50,000, marking a three-month high. The number of hospitalizations and deaths is also increasing.
According to the most recent weekly report from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which has replaced Public Health England, Covid cases have increased in all age groups, but are now at an all-time high among schoolchildren.
Except for two dozen locations, AY.4.2 has spread throughout the country. Some experts believe the subvariant is to blame for the increase in cases in the UK, which other European countries are not experiencing to the same extent.
However, there is no evidence that AY.4.2 is more lethal than previous versions of the Delta strain, which was discovered in India last December, according to the Daily Mail.
It has two mutations, Y145H and A222V, and is being monitored, according to the UKHSA.
Both of these spike mutations have been discovered in other virus lineages since the pandemic began, but are not found in any current variant of concern.