The mutation of COVID-19 coronavirus – first detected in southeast England – continues to evolve and is likely to “sweep the world”, according to the Executive Director of the COVID-19 Consortium Professor Sharon Peacock. The new variant first found in Kent is well on its way to becoming the key COVID-19 coronavirus strain. The UK strain is not alone though. The South African coronavirus variant is equally, if not more, transmissible. Also Read: Mucormycosis: A rare life-threatening fungal infection with 54% mortality rate detected in COVID-19 patients
The “UK variant” or B.1.1.7 became a cause of concern after Public Health England noticed that there was a surge in cases in Kent, despite a lockdown. Also Read: We now have 4,000 new variants of coronavirus that causes COVID-19!
- The new COVID-19 coronavirus variant has 23 mutations and is known to be more contagious.
- B.1.1.7 has spread to over 50 countries and is the cause of major concern around the world.
- The new variant of COVID-19 coronavirus is up to 70% more contagious and approximately 30% more deadly than the other known coronavirus variants.
UK variant isn’t the first variant: Back in March 2020, a mutation was found in the spike protein called D614G and gave coronavirus a small increase in transmissibility and is now present in almost all SARS-CoV-2 viruses. Another variant appeared in Denmark but slowly vanished. Spain was the centre of another coronavirus variant but that too faded with no evidence that it was more transmissible. Then there was N439K which affected the body’s immune response. Virus lineages are known to expand and then go extinct. Also Read: EpiVacCorona coronavirus vaccine: Russia’s second COVID-19 jab has 100% efficacy in early-stage trials
Will the existing vaccines work? The existing vaccines appear to work well but, if needed, pharma companies can very well edit the vaccines to take on the new strain. However, it has often been found that the new variants are:
- More transmissible
- Avoid immune response
- Affect vaccination
- Have the potential to cause more severe disease.
What’re they saying: “What’s concerning about this is that the 1.1.7 variant that we have had circulating for some weeks and months is beginning to mutate again and get new mutations which could affect the way that we handle the virus in terms of immunity and effectiveness of vaccines,” Sharon Peacock said. Also Read: Argentina receives only first part of Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine shipment from Russia as second dose is ‘less stable’
“Once we get on top of [the virus] or it mutates itself out of being virulent – causing disease – then we can stop worrying about it. But I think, looking in the future, we’re going to be doing this for years. We’re still going to be doing this 10 years down the line, in my view,” Peacock added.