Unusual symptoms ranging from hearing impairment, severe gastric problems and blood clots leading to gangrene in patients show that the Delta variant of COVID-19 could be a severe strain, say doctors in India.
Apart from its unpredictable nature and resistance against vaccines, the variant causes a gamut of symptoms in patients, unlike other COVID-19 mutants like Beta and Gamma.
Carrying a higher risk of transmission, the variant B.1.617.2 has taken 60 countries in its grip in six months. While Australia and the US have imposed restrictions on travel, UK is reconsidering opening up later this month. If cases in England and Scotland are considered, the variant is being linked to a higher risk of hospitalisation.
“We need more scientific research to analyse if these newer clinical presentations are linked to B.1.617.2 or not,” Bloomberg quoted Dr Abdul Ghafur, an infectious disease physician at Apollo Hospital, Chennai as saying.
“Last year, we thought we had learned about our new enemy, but it changed,” Ghafur said adding that the unpredictability of the virus is making it difficult to gauge its nature.
Six doctors from different parts of the country that Bloomberg spoke to, said that stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hearing loss and joint pain are some common ailments found in those admitted with COVID. They suspect it to be the work of the Delta variant.
In comparison, the Beta and Gamma variants, which were first found in patients in South Africa and Brazil respectively, show little evidence of producing different clinical signs, said a recent study by scientists of University of New South Wales.
A Mumbai-based doctor who has treated eight patients for thrombotic complications (related to clotting of blood) said some COVID patients develop small blood clots, the severity of which kills their tissues, leading to formation of gangrene. Two of these patients needed amputations of fingers or a foot.
“I saw three-to-four cases the whole of last year, and now it’s one patient a week,” Ganesh Manudhane, the cardiologist told Bloomberg adding that the clots could be caused by the Delta variant.
In India, the Delta variant is suspected to be the primary reason behind the second wave of the pandemic that took the country’s tally to 18.6 million cases.
Madudhane is collecting data to find why some COVID patients develop clots while other don’t.
Other doctors have also reported about clots forming in blood vessels connected to the intestines, triggering stomach ache in patients; as well as hearing loss, swelling of neck and severe tonsillitis.
Doctors say the rapid spread of the variant seen in India is another cause of concern. Ghafur suspects the Delta variant may also be responsible for increasing household transmission as unlike last year which saw isolated cases being reported in families, now entire families are getting infected by the virus.
Emerging evidence also shows that the variant may be highly resistant to COVID-19 vaccines, calling for tweaks and mends in the extant shots.
“New vaccines have to be prepared with new variants in mind…We can’t get ahead of the virus, but at least we can keep up with it,” Ghafur said.