The vaccines are in the 2nd and 3rd trial stages, yet unfortunately it isn’t a relief for the human population as there has been a good evidence about a mutated variant strain of COVID-19 virus evolved in South and East of England: UK. The epidemiological evidence is less apparently but, with time the strain is proving to be more virulent than the existing COVID-19 Strain.
The new variant is named as the B.1.1.7 lineage of SARS-CoV-2. The presently available data reveals some of the undesirable and dangerous characteristics of the new variant. It is predicted that the new strain of COVID -19, is capable of sooner reproduction and causing disease quicker and can be transmitted upto 70% more efficiently than any of the existing strains. This can be traced to the 23 mutations observed in the genetic code of 30,000 nucleotides of existing COVID-19 virus. Many virologists predicted the mutations to be happening somewhere down the line for COVID-19 just, did not measure it to be before the threat of one pandemic gets in control. Evidence of virus mutation goes long back, to the evolution of Influenza Virus commonly known as the H1N1. This virus has mutated strains that affect different species, like H7N7 in Horses, H3N8 causes illness in dogs and seals. However, these mutations occurred within minimum 5-7 years of gap between the existing strains and their new variants. The COVID -19 virus has mutated within a year of Concurrent Pandemic.
A very erroneous fact of the new variant is that, the mutation has occurred in the 6 bases of the existing COVID-19 genome, which unfortunately encode amino acids 69 and 70 of the spike protein, “N501Y”. These proteins and the sequence were the one used in PCR identification of the Virus. This indicates that the personal being infected may go undetected. More about the disease and level of infectivity caused by the virus is yet to be completely discovered.
It cannot be determined if there is any difference in the pathogenicity of the new variant. Although, more research is required in this particular field of enquiry. The new variant is expected to be sensitive to the developed vaccines and treatments that are apparently available in the market, as the virus follows the same route of infection and has more or less the same target spike protein that is used for the vaccine productions.
Some comments from various Scientists about the new variant go as given below:
"At the moment, there is no indication that this new strain would evade treatments and vaccines. However, the mutation is a reminder of the power of the virus to adapt and that cannot be ruled out in the future." Said by – Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of Wellcome Trust.
"We are still waiting to learn further about this new strain and that has to be the key information here. It appears to be more contagious, but we do not know if it is more or less dangerous. Hence, stronger restrictions are sensible." Said by – Dr James Gill, Honorary Clinical Lecturer, Warwick Medical School,
UK government's advisory body New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) has released a paper in this regard as well.