A Health Ministry official said Monday that the delta plus variant of the coronavirus has not become the dominant strain in Israel, with 12 cases having been diagnosed in the three weeks since the first case was found in the country.
Ten of the 12 carriers of the delta plus variant had returned from abroad, and two more contracted the virus from travelers with whom they had been in contact.
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The official said that the data may indicate that the delta plus variant does not have the capability to overcome delta as the dominant strain of the virus in Israel. The latter variant has become the most common COVID-19 strain in the country, and has been responsible for nearly every recent case.
The delta plus variant has a different spike protein on its viral envelope from the delta variant. These proteins allow the virus to cling to and penetrate the cell. The variant was first discovered in India and has spread to other countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States.
After the first delta plus case was identified in Israel, a Health Ministry source explained that given that it had not become the dominant strain in the U.K., it was unlikely that it would be significant in Israel.
India’s Health Ministry announced last month that the state is afraid that the delta plus variant may be more transmissible and bind more strongly to lung cell receptors, thus reducing the effectiveness of the body’s antibody response to the virus.
New coronavirus variants have raised fears of a higher level of infectiousness and danger in comparison to known strains. Changes in spike proteins may make the virus better suited to clinging to lung cells and connecting to their receptors, and every new variant presents a test of the vaccines' effectiveness.
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Despite this, changes in spike proteins do not necessarily testify to a more dominant version of the virus. Other variants have been identified in Israel, such as the beta variant that originated in South Africa, which did not become dominant.