The news about the covid mutant or the covid strain has now raised another fear among the ongoing pandemic.
The world is existing amidst a pandemic since the past year. Covid19 has brought the world to a halt. Many people lost their lives and many are struggling to live. There is no person who is completely fearless now. Even after the introduction of vaccines that might have a cure, people are still under fear.
Covid19 has undergone many mutations over time. MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV were older viruses. The mutated version of this is the Covid19 that is deadly and has no cure till now. Now, another variant of the coronavirus has been found in the UK that is said to spread faster than the existing virus.
The new variant VUI – 202012/01, also known as lineage B.1.1.7, is said to be the reason behind the sharply rising cases in the country. Moreover, the mutant has a higher capacity to transmit.
When the world is looking for an effective cure for the virus, the new discovery of the covid mutant has given rise to many questions. Is there a higher risk? Does it have more repurcussions? Will the vaccine be able to stop the spread? Will the situation of March repeat itself? The questions are countless.
What do we know about the covid strain?
The strain is not totally new, in fact, it was detected in September at first. In November, around 15 cases in London were from the new variant. This new variant is a cause of concern as it is rapidly being spread and has also taken over the existing virus. This mutant is said to have a higher transmission capability.
Nothing can be said with confirmation, but as a precautionary measure, the President has declared a strict lockdown within the country. “It is really too early to tell… but from what we see so far it is growing very quickly, it is growing faster than (a previous variant) ever grew, but it is important to keep an eye on this,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a press conference.
How is the reach of the strain in UK?
Analysis suggests that this covid variant can spread way 70% faster than the novel coronavirus. There is not any confirmation if the death rate due to this mutant is higher or not. The virus strain is heavily concentrated in London, South East, and Eastern England. Countries like America, Denmark and Netherlands have said to report cases that are suspected to originate from the UK.
According to a report in The Guardian, the deputy director-general of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and joint director of its European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, Ewan Birney said, “If the new variant was going to have a big impact on disease severity, we would have seen that by now.”
How actually the new variant is?
The reason why the new covid strain is significant is because of the alarming increase in the number of cases in the UK. The second most important reason is the number of cases found due to transmission. The regions where the B.1.1.7 infections have been growing also have magnified.
Since the detection of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China in 2019, the initial SARS-CoV 2 has undergone many changes. But the preliminary genomic characterisation says that the UK variant B.1.1.7 has enormously many genetic changes, specifically in the rising protein which is often responsible for how the virus reacts when it contacts the human cell.
Will the covid strain affect vaccination?
There is no strong finding that can say that the mutant will have an effect on vaccination.
“We are not seeing any increased virulence [clinical severity] or any gross changes in the S [spike protein] that will reduce vaccine effectiveness — so far,” said Dr Tang in response to the UK government’s advisory body New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) paper.
“One of the mutations in the new variant deletes six bases in the viral genome that encode amino acids 69 and 70 of the spike protein. By coincidence, this region is one of three genomic targets used by some PCR tests, and so, in those tests, that channel comes up negative on the new variant,” explains Dr Jeffrey Barrett, Director of the SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, UK. (Source)
The Indian government has analysed the situation very well and have taken precautions for the same. The government has banned flights from the UK.
The government is also seeking on advice from the supervisory boards and soon follow up actions would be taken.