SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Delta variant has been on the rise in the United States – and Utah – in recent weeks. But a new version of the variant, Delta Plus, has been identified in 11 countries worldwide.
“Right now, it’s in low frequency in the United States and most of the world, so there’s not a whole lot known about it,” said Kelly Oakeson, the chief scientist of bioinformatics and next generation sequencing.
Early research suggests it could be more transmissible, but experts said more data needs to be collected.
So, what’s the difference between Delta Plus and the Delta variant?
“These viruses mutate as our immune systems adapt, and our immune systems adapt back and this ongoing arms race back and forth,” Oakeson said.
“It has one additional mutation in the part of the spike protein that actually binds our cells, that allows the virus to get into our cells to infect us,” said Stephen Goldstein, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
As of Friday, Oakeson said Delta Plus has not been identified in Utah.
As scientists track the new mutation, Oakeson said people do not need to panic.
“It could be scary right? We’re talking about a virus that’s mutating to be more transmissible, to cause worse and more severe illness, that’s scary,” he said. “But the Delta plus variant, right now, we don’t want to cause panic, there’s nothing to panic about.”
Goldstein said right now, people should focus on what’s here, which is the Delta Variant.
“It’s making up apparently around 50%, if not more of our new cases in Utah now,” he said.
All three COVID-19 vaccines remain effective against the six variants of concern. Experts believe the shot may also work against the Delta Plus variant, but again, it’s too soon to know.