The new COVID-19 variant has now travelled across the world with cases of infection on a constant rise.
The new COVID-19 variant has now travelled across the world with cases of infection on a constant rise. This has caused some stir among people as many are now concerned about these new variants, which is now commonly defined as variants of interest (VOIs). The three variants- the UK one, Brazil one and South Africa one, have spread across countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) on February 25 said that they have defined VOIs and SARS-CoV-2 will be considered as one considering its structure and properties has changed when mutated, and can cause community transmission/multiple Covid-19 cases or can be found in multiple countries. Going by this, the three new strains are now VOIs.
The UK Covid-19 strain
Initially emerging in December last year, this variant- B.1.1.7 or VOC 202012/01, saw multiple mutations in its spike protein. While one mutation- N501Y can make the viral strain more effective at binding to the ACE2 receptor in humans, the other significant spike protein mutations identified are A570D, D614G, H69/V70 deletion, P681H, and Y144 deletion. According to a report by The IE, since this mutation has been found in England, the virus seems to be 50 per cent more effective than the original strain. As on March 2, 106 countries reported regarding the UK strain to WHO, where as many as 42 countries have recorded community transmission and in 35 countries, this transmission is incomplete for now. In case of India, the Union Health Ministry has said that they have found only 280 cases of infection with the UK strain during genomic surveillance conducted.
South Africa Covid-19 strain
This strain was first noted in South Africa last year in October and is called 501Y.V2 or B1.351. It had nine changes in its spike protein when compared to the viral strain that initially came to South Africa. This variant is also highly transmissible and there are many concerns when it comes to this strain. This is because many studies have indicated the spike mutations having possibility that could lead to antigenic changes, which can further have an impact on monoclonal antibody therapies as well as vaccine protection. When it comes to this strain, WHO is also analysing its impact on the vaccine effectiveness.
Till February this year, this strain has been found in 56 countries with community transmission reported in 8 countries. For 42 countries, the transmission classification is not complete yet. In India, 11 cases of this variant have surfaced, according to the government data.
Brazil Covid-19 strain
The report noted this strain as P.1, which is a branch of the B.1.1.28 lineage. Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases noted this in four travellers from Brazil while performing the routine screening at Tokyo airport. This comes as a concern as this strain too shares some mutations like the one South Africa variant does. According to Public Health England, there is a possibility of this variant responding less to current vaccines. However, some more work is required to completely understand. This variant has spread to 29 countries including India with only one case detected of this so far.
In India, while there is no specific evidence indicating the three new variants as the cause of surge in Coronavirus cases, the government is still observing these mutations carefully, the report cited Dr V K Paul, the head of India’s Covid-19 task force as saying.