A new and possibly more transmissible and deadly SARS-CoV-2 Delta associated variant of concern surfaced in Israel, raising concerns for the vaccination program among other issues. Based on the Delta variant, the AY3 strain results from ongoing mutations in this Eastern Mediterranean nation. As it turns out a number of mutations are surfacing including some that are considered more “virulent.” Now ten people were identified as infected with AY3, eight recently returned from international trips while two were infected locally. Could AY3 represent the final trigger for more onerous lockdowns to come?
Last week Dr. Asher Shalman, Health Ministry Department of International Relations Director informed the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee about the risks from AY3 which he believes originated in South America. Days later the ministry shared that 10 cases were associated with AY3.
The Delta Surge
Israel now faces its worst surge yet during the pandemic despite high vaccination rates. As of August 28 the health authorities there reported 11,177 news cases representing a new record high. Daily deaths based on a 7-day average hover at 25. TrialSite has reported large numbers of breakthrough cases meaning the vaccinated are not only transmitting the virus but also getting infected and landing in the hospital.
Consequently Israel commenced its third booster program despite the fact that calls for vaccine equity from the World Health Organization (WHO) pointed to requests for a temporary hold on any booster programs.
The Jerusalem Post reported Prof. Cyrille Cohen, head of immunotherapy laboratory at Bar-Ilan University declared “AY3 is a subtype of the Delta variant, which falls under the category of what we have called the Delta -Plus variants.” Dr. Cohen continued that all of these variants associated with Delta “…present a mutation called 417, which is suspected to help the variant to escape antibodies.”
The AY3, again a subtype of Delta, actually makes up a number of new variants known as Delta-Plus variants.