All You Need to Know About the New Variant of Coronavirus

-By Monika Rajput

Colorized scanning electron micrograph of an apoptotic cell (greenish-brown) heavily infected with SARS-COV-2 virus particles (pink) isolated from a patient sample. (REUTERS) Source: livemint.com

Meanwhile developing the vaccines for COVID-19, a few days back, a new variant of coronavirus has been identified in England.

The widespread dissemination of a new form of coronavirus was blamed for the imposition of stringent tier four mixing laws for millions of individuals, tight Christmas limitations the UK, and the ban on travel. In a matter of months, it has gone from being non-existent to the most widespread type of the virus in most parts of England. Government officials on this new variant have “moderate” confidence that it is more capable of spreading than other versions.

All the analysis has been done at an early point with enormous uncertainties coupled with a lengthy list of questions gone unanswered.

As it is a known fact that viruses mutate all the time and it’s important to have a laser eye on if the behaviour of the virus is shifting.

Cause of concern

There are three things that are drawing attention:

  • Other variants of the virus are replaced easily
  • It is having mutations that influence part of the virus that is likely to be significant
  • Such mutations have also been shown in the laboratory to improve the virus’ capacity to kill cells.
  • Both of these work together to make a case for a virus that can more quickly spread.

However, we may not have clear evidence but by merely being in the right position at the right time, new strains will become more popular such as London.

Article written in BBC state that Professor Nick Loman from COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium said that laboratory experiments are needed but can’t wait for months to observe the spread.

Its Spread is Faster!

It was first observed in September and in November the quarter of the cases belonged to this “new” variant. Now till mid-December, it has reached to two thirds.

In an attempt to measure how much of an edge this one would have, mathematicians are running the numbers on the spread of new variant. Yet it’s impossible to tease out what is because of people’s behaviour and what is because of the virus.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson quoted the statistic that the variant could be up to 70 percent more transmissible. He said that this could raise the R number by 0.4, which shows whether an outbreak is increasing or shrinking.

Spread Till Now!

The strain is suspected to have either evolved in a patient in the UK or to have been introduced from a country that has a poorer capacity to track mutations in the coronavirus.

With the exception of Northern Ireland, the variant can be found in the UK, although it is highly concentrated in London, eastern England, and the South East. The cases are not evident from anywhere in the world. Nextstrain’s data, which has been recording the genetic codes of viral samples around the world, show that cases have arrived from the UK in Denmark and Australia. The Netherlands has reported cases as well. Apart from this, recently Italy has also reported the new variant in the UK returnee. Many countries are shutting down their borders to stop spreading this new mutation.

What is known about this new mutation?

An initial review of the latest variant has been issued and describes 17 potentially significant changes. Alterations to the spike protein have ben arisen and this is the key used by the virus to open the gateway to the cells of our body.

The most significant portion of the spike, recognized as the “receptor-binding domain” is altered by one mutation marked N501Y. Herein, the spike first makes contact with the surface of the cells of our body. It is possible that any modifications that make life simpler for the virus to get inside would give it an edge.

Professor Loman said, “It looks and smells like an important adaptation,” another mutation – a deletion of H69/V70 in which a small component of the spike is missing.

A study done by Professor Ravi Gupta at the University of Cambridge has proposed that in laboratory studies, this mutation has increased infectivity. Moreover, the studies also suggested that the deletion makes less effective antibodies from the survivors’ blood in attacking the virus.

It is come From-

This type is strongly mutated which is possibly arisen in a patient with a weak immune system that was unable to fight back the virus. Moreover, their body has instead become a testing ground for the virus to mutate.

What about vaccination?

The vaccines will certainly work for now at least. The immune reaction to the current spike is produced by all three leading vaccines, and that is why the issue emerges.

However, the vaccines prepare the immune system to target several various portions of the virus, so the vaccines can still function even when part of the spike has mutated.

But if gets more mutated then that will a cause of concern. The virus is potentially on a road for vaccine escape, it has taken a few steps towards that. Furthermore, vaccine escape can occur once the infection shifts so that it prevents the vaccine’s full effect and proceeds to infect people.

This version is only the latest one to prove that as it infects more and more of us, the virus manages to evolve.

References:

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55388846
  2. livemint.com

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