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AY.3 variant: What is AY.3? ‘Potentially worrying’ variant of concern most prevalent in US

Delta variant: Map shows reported rise in cases in the UK

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Researchers continue to monitor “variants of concern” in the UK and elsewhere as they spring up from Delta’s dominance. The list of variants known by the Greek designations, from Alpha to Omega, remains, but some have developed their own offshoots. Scientists have two new Delta variants, AY.2 and AY.3, on their lists, and they recently discussed the dangers posed by the latter.

What is AY.3?

The Delta variant is now the dominant Covid strain and causing significant infection spikes due to enhanced transmissibility.

The designation, created by the World Health Organisation (WHO), refers to a variant lineage.

The lineage includes 13 distinct Delta descendants, ranging from B.1.617.2 to AY.12.

The AY.3 subtype is one of its many recent descendants but among the most notable.

The variant is most dominant in the US – where it makes up roughly nine percent of all cases.

Along with AY.1 and AY.2, it is now a “variant of concern”.

And it is potentially better at escaping the immune system, according to a report by the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Researchers with the council found people who received Covaxin developed 47 percent fewer antibodies against AY.3.

Christina Pagel, a Professor of Operational Research at UCL and director of the university’s Clinical Operational Research Unit, said it appears “potentially worrying” AY.3 is growing in the UK.

Professor Pagel pointed to Delta variant data from the Sanger Institute, a genetics and genomics research institute, that showed the Delta variant is slightly receding.

While this may seem like a positive move, she attributed the slight dip in cases to a “rapid increase” of AY.3.

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She added three regions, namely Yorkshire and the Humber, the East Midlands, Northeast and East of England, have seen a marked increase of roughly three percent.

The variant’s current concentration won’t make a discernible impact on UK cases just yet.

Professor Pagel said many uncertainties remained around the variant, but it is time to “start planning”.

Writing on Twitter, she said: “There is lots we don’t know about AY.3.”

“It might be more transmissible than Delta – it might be more immune evasive.”

“Or its recent growth might be just chance or sampling.

“But we’ve seen this before, and so we should start planning on what to do and learn more about AY.3.”

Other scientists agree that there is little evidence of an AY.3 supremacy just yet.

Colin Angus, an epidemiologist at Sheffield University, told the Washington Post there was “there is no obvious sign that it has gained a foothold over existing variants of the virus.”

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