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Delta variant expected to constitute ‘at least’ 15% of Covid cases — MoH

Expert expects the number in the thousands as national study underway

As of Saturday, the Ministry of Health stated that there were only 245 cases of the extra-transmissible Delta COVID-19 variant in Jordan. (Photo: Unsplash)
As of Saturday, the Ministry of Health stated that there were only 245 cases of the extra-transmissible Delta COVID-19 variant in Jordan. (Photo: Unsplash)
AMMAN — As of Saturday, the Ministry of Health stated that there were only 245 cases of the extra-transmissible Delta COVID-19 variant in Jordan.اضافة اعلان

But a microbiologist and former member of the national epidemiological committee says that there are likely ‘thousands’ of unidentified cases of the variant in the Kingdom - and a national study is hoping to uncover the full extent of the strain.

“I believe that there is evidence that the dominating strain in Jordan is the Delta strain,” said Azmi Mahafzah, professor of microbiology at the University of Jordan, in an interview with Jordan News. The microbiologist previously chaired the lab committee at the national epidemiological committee.

Although the government has only identified hundreds of cases, Mahafzah said that “the real picture is different. The Delta virus is the predominant one in Jordan - it is in thousands.”

The Delta strain originated in India and has been found to be more transmissible than other strains of the coronavirus. It is distinguished by two significant mutations, known as the L452R and E484Q, which make the virus more transmissible and more difficult for the immune system to overcome.

Secretary General of the Ministry of Health for Epidemiology and Communicable Diseases Affairs and the official in charge of the coronavirus portfolio, Adel Belbeisi, told Jordan News that the ministry is currently implementing a nation-wide study.

More than two thousand positive COVID-19 samples will be gathered and tested for the Delta variant, he elaborated.

“I think the Delta variant will not be less than 15 or 20%” of the total sample, said Belbeisi in an interview with Jordan News.

The official noted that the “Delta variant is dominant almost in most of the countries in the region and in the UK”, with the World Health Organization (WHO) predicting that the strain will soon dominate the region.

Belbeisi added that all positive COVID-19 cases identified at the Central Public Health Laboratory of the Ministry of Health are tested for the Delta variant. On Monday, there were 584 new cases of COVID-19 documented in Jordan, with a total of a 2.79% positivity rate from PCR tests.

According to Mahafzah, labs in Jordan have specialized PCR tests that can identify the specific strain of a sample of COVID-19. “We use different primers from the original primers,” he said. “This can be identified. And it can be confirmed by gene sequencing for the protein, not necessarily the whole genome.”

“In Jordan, labs do this,” he explained. “But the interest in this has declined.” Mahafzah said that during his tenure on the epidemiological committee, at least five percent of COVID-19 samples were sent to Scripps Laboratories in California for gene sequencing. Now, he said, this practice has fallen by the wayside. 

Mahafzah claimed that he had heard from private laboratories that anywhere from 40% to 90% of the COVID-19 tests they perform are the Delta variant.

“By no means the Delta strain can be only 200 or 400 cases,” he said. “The majority of isolates are Delta, but they are not tested. The government seems to be not interested in pursuing this and doing gene sequencing. The Delta variant has dominated the scene, because of the very high transmissibility.”

Jordan News spoke with several medical laboratories that perform COVID-19 testing in the Kingdom. One stated that they do encounter a significant number of cases of the Delta strain, while another said that they did not encounter many Delta cases. Neither lab offered specific numbers or percentages of how many cases they encountered of the Delta strain.

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