SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2, is a variant of lineage B.1.617 of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It was first detected in India in late 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) named it the Delta variant on 31 May 2021.
It has mutations in the gene encoding the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein causing the substitutions T478K, P681R and L452R, which are known to affect transmissibility of the virus as well as whether it can be neutralised by antibodies for previously circulating variants of the COVID-19 virus. Public Health England (PHE) in May 2021 observed secondary attack rates to be 51–67% higher than the alpha variant.
On 7 May 2021, PHE changed their classification of lineage B.1.617.2 from a variant under investigation (VUI) to a variant of concern (VOC) based on an assessment of transmissibility being at least equivalent to B.1.1.7 (Alpha variant), first identified in the UK (as the Kent variant). Subsequently on 11 May 2021, the WHO also classified this lineage VOC, and said that it showed evidence of higher transmissibility and reduced neutralisation. The variant is thought to be partly responsible for India's second wave of the pandemic beginning in February 2021.[10