The delta variant has dominated headlines (if you want to learn more read our previous post about it here). Now, there is an additional variant called delta plus, which is also considered a variant of concern. Some of the most worrying characteristics are increased transmissibility, stronger binding to receptors of lung cells and the potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response. The reduction in monoclonal antibody response could reduce the efficacy of a lifesaving monoclonal antibody therapy given to some hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
So does that mean delta plus will be even worse than the delta variant? For a variant to become dominant it needs to infect a large amount of people and be more transmissible. Delta plus has not done this so far. There is no sign that it has gained over existing variants of the virus and there is no evidence to suggest that it is more of a problem than the original delta variant. Though we will need more data to know that definitively.
As long as coronavirus is around and there is a good portion of people who are unvaccinated, we should be concerned that the virus will continue to mutate. The vaccines are still highly effective against hospitalization from the variants and we are lucky the vaccines have proven to be effective against the current variants, especially against severe disease. When a new variant appears, a big question is whether it will bypass the vaccines. Right now there is no evidence that delta or delta plus will do that, however in the future there could be a variant that is just as transmissible, overtakes delta and gets around the vaccines. If the high majority of the population is vaccinated it will make it much harder for the virus to spread and mutate. Until then, the virus can continue to morph.