UK Covid-19 surge sparks call for probe into Delta Plus mutation

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – Former US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called for “urgent research” into a mutation of the Delta variant – known as Delta Plus – following a surge in Covid-19 cases in the UK.

“We need urgent research to figure out if this delta plus is more transmissible, has partial immune evasion,” Dr Gottlieb said in a tweet on Sunday (Oct 17). “There’s no clear indication that it’s considerably more transmissible, but we should work to more quickly characterise these and other new variants. We have the tools.”

His comments come as the UK reported 45,140 new cases on Sunday, the highest daily jump since mid-July – around when Prime Boris Johnson authorised the removal of most Covid-related restrictions in what was dubbed “Freedom Day”.

Weekly deaths from the virus have topped 800 for each of the past six weeks, higher than in other major western European nations, according to Bloomberg’s coronavirus tracker.

To date, the UK has recorded almost 140,000 Covid-related fatalities.

The Delta Plus strain includes the K417N mutation, which has stoked concern because that’s also harboured by the Beta variant that is associated with an increased risk of reinfection.

UK researchers said in late June that there’s no evidence yet to suggest the additional mutation is more worrisome.

A German paper earlier this month found while both Delta and Delta Plus infect lung cells more efficiently than the original coronavirus strain, Delta Plus doesn’t appear to be significantly more dangerous than Delta.

Dr Gottlieb, who serves on Pfizer’s board of directors, led the FDA from 2017 to 2019. He has been promoting his new book, Uncontrolled Spread: Why Covid-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic.

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