THE Indian variant of COVID-19, also known as the Delta variant, could be linked to complications including hearing impairment severe gastric upsets and blood clots leading to gangrene, symptoms not typically seen in Covid patients.
Delta, also known as B.1.617.2, has spread to more than 60 countries over the past six months and triggered travel curbs from Australia to the US.
A spike in infections, fuelled by the Delta variant, has forced the UK to reconsider its plan for reopening later this month, with a local report saying it may be postponed by two weeks.
Higher rates of transmission and a reduction in the effectiveness of vaccines have made understanding the strain’s effects especially critical.
“We need more scientific research to analyse if these newer clinical presentations are linked to B.1.617 or not,” said Abdul Ghafur, an infectious disease physician at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, southern India’s largest city.
Mr Ghafur said he was seeing more Covid patients with diarrhoea now than in the initial wave of the pandemic.
“Last year, we thought we had learnt about our new enemy, but it changed,” Mr Ghafur said. “This virus has become so, so unpredictable.”
Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, hearing loss and joint pain are among the ailments Covid patients are experiencing, according to six doctors treating patients across India.
The Beta and Gamma variants – first detected in South Africa and Brazil respectively – have shown little or no evidence of triggering unusual clinical signs, according to a study by researchers from the University of New South Wales last month.
Some patients develop micro thrombi, or small blood clots, so severe that they cause affected tissue to die and develop gangrene, said Ganesh Manudhane, a Mumbai cardiologist, who has treated eight patients for thrombotic complications at the Seven Hills Hospital during the past two months. Two required amputations of fingers or a foot.
“To avoid it completely seems unrealistic to me,” he said on Twitter in German. “The decisive factor is a very high vaccination rate, which reduces mortality.”