Covid subvariants identified in Thailand

Two mutated forms of Covid-19 variants were found in Thailand in October, including 18 cases of the Alpha Plus subtype and one case of Delta Plus, the Public Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

“The Alpha Plus or E484K could escape immune response and could cause more symptoms,” said Dr Supphakit Siriluck, the Director General of the Medical Science Department. “We have found two cases of the variant at a prison in Chiang Mai and 16 cases in Chanthaburi and Trat.”

If a variant or subtype can escape a body’s immune response, this can make existing vaccines less effective against it.  

“Thailand has found 18 Alpha Plus cases and one case of Delta Plus or AY.1. We have not found any AY.4.2 yet, we want to clarify this for the public to understand,” he said.

The Delta Plus or AY.4.2 subtype is under investigation in the United Kingdom, because it has been found to spread faster than the original Delta variant by 10-15 per cent.

Dr Supphakit said the two cases of Alpha Plus in Chiang Mai were found in a prison, and the 16 cases in Chanthaburi and Trat were found at longan fruit processing plants.

Of the 16 cases, 12 were Cambodian and the rest were Thai.

“According to data from GISAID, most of the Alpha Plus cases can be found in Cambodia and the variant is widely spreading in the neighbouring country,” he said.

“Similar to Beta and Gamma, if there is a lot of Alpha Plus cases there could be a problem because it can escape immune response but luckily, the Alpha variant has been replaced by the Delta variant as the dominating variant in the country so the Alpha Plus’s ability to spread is not high,” he said.

However, the country has found one case of AY.1 which is another subtype of the Delta variant.

There are 47 subtypes of the Delta variant. Altogether the variant now accounts for 98 per cent of new cases in Thailand.

“The case that we have found in Kamphaeng Phet was AY.1 and there is no data which said that this subtype could spread faster, escape immune response or cause more symptoms than the original Delta variant,” he said.

Dr Supphakit said health authorities will continue to conduct more tests for new variants and they are keeping a close eye on the outbreak situation.

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