What Is The New Covid AY3 Variant Strain? 3 Things To Know

What Is The New Covid AY3 Variant Strain? 3 Things To Know


Medical workers prepare to remove the body of a coronavirus patient who had died, in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Machakos, Kenya Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Brian Inganga)

It is the nature of viruses to evolve over time and these changes can make them easier to spread and become more virulent. Variants are a concern when they increase the transmissibility of the virus because they tend to bring out more serious symptoms or tend to be more resistant to antibodies.

The AY.3 or AY3 subtype of the delta variant is proving to be the most virulent right now and is referred to as delta plus.

Mutations, variants and strains

When a virus replicates, it mutates. When enough mutations accumulate, they are designated as a variant. When a variant is proven to have new biologic capabilities, it’s called a strain.

The covid-19 mutation that led to the delta variant is now the dominant strain of the virus that is causing significant infection spikes due to enhanced transmissibility.

The delta variant designation, created by the World Health Organization (WHO), refers to a variant lineage, ranging from B.1.617.2 to AY.12.

“The AY3 is a subtype of the Delta variant which falls under the category of what we have called the Delta-Plus variants,” said Professor Cyrille Cohen, head of the immunotherapy laboratory at Bar-Ilan University.  “All of them present a mutation called 417, which is suspected to help the variant to escape antibodies.”

Here are 3 things you need to know about the new Covid AY3 strain:

1. It is a variant of concern

The AY3 subtype is notorious for escaping the immune system, according to a report by the Indian Council of Media Research. Researchers found that people who received Covaxin — India’s indigenous Covid-19 vaccine that was discontinued — developed 47 percent fewer antibodies against AY3.

Christina Pagel, a research professor at University College London and director of the university’s Clinical Operational Research Unit, said it appears “potentially worrying” that AY3 is growing in the UK.

Simultaneously, the delta variant is receding slightly, Pagel said, citing data from the U.K.-based Sanger Institute, a genetics and genomics research institute.

While signs of the virus variant receding seem like a positive, Pagel attributed the slight dip in cases to a “rapid increase” of AY3. Pagel said while many uncertainties remain around the variant, it is time to “start planning”.

2. New cases of AY3 variant could force Israel into lockdown

A senior Israeli health official warned that a new strain of the delta variant could force Israel into a lockdown.

“If it reaches Israel, we will get to the lockdown that we so desperately want to avoid, ” said Dr. Asher Salmon, director of the Health Ministry’s Department of International Relations, during a Knesset Law and Constitution Committee address.

Just two days later, the ministry announced that 10 new cases of AY3 had been identified in Israel.  Eight of those with AY3 were infected while traveling abroad, while two others were infected in Israel.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged Israelis to get booster vaccinations, saying another lockdown would “destroy the future of the country.”

3. AY3 is twice as infectious as the original coronavirus

According to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the delta variant is about twice as infectious as the original coronavirus strain and 60 percent more contagious than the alpha variant.

The AY3 sub-lineage of the delta variant accounts for approximately 15 percent of covid-19 cases in the U.S. and has been detected in at least 61 countries. As of Aug. 10, some 17,792 sequences of the AY3 strain have been detected in the U.S.

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