A new coronavirus version is spreading in the UK, but its significance is unclear


News this week made headlines about a new coronovirus variant identified in Britain, raising concerns that the virus is mutating in a way that could possibly make it more contagious.

In a speech to the House of Commons on Monday, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the new version had been identified in more than 1,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in South England, where cases are increasing. Hancock said that preliminary analysis suggests that this variant may be more variable than other current variants, and may possibly explain what the current boom is in that region of the country. However, both of these things are unclear, and further studies are needed to understand the importance of this new mutation.

Many new coronovirus strains have already been identified since the onset of the epidemic.

“the very first [COVID-19] The viruses that emerged about a year ago are no longer the viruses that are actually roaming in almost any country. There are different variants that have taken hold, ”said Dr. Neville Sanjana, a geneticist at the New York Genome Center and New York University.

The term “mutation” is a fear that the virus may turn into something more dangerous, but mutation is a natural process throughout the life cycle of a virus.

“They make changes and changes to the host during their time; Sanjana said that they do not live the same … This is part of the molecular arms race between the virus and their hosts.

However, these changes are not always significant or harmful. Viruses can also become less deadly over time as a result of mutations.

Sanjana states that most of the coronavirus variants identified so far have had no detectable effect on the biology of the virus or cause more severe COVID-19 disease.

One exception is a mutation of the virus that occurred early in the pandemic, which Sanjana has studied in her laboratory. The mutation, known as the D614G or G variant, made a difference, he says. This occurred on the spike protein, the pointed structure that gives the coronovirus its crown-like profile, and the key that allows it to enter human cells. While no evidence suggests that the D614G mutation causes more severe symptoms or death, research suggests that it makes it easier for the virus to infect cells and spread more easily from one person to another. Some scientists believe that this variant, first spotted in eastern China in January and then quickly spreading across Europe and New York City, became more difficult to prevent.

The new coronovirus variant that British authorities warned about this week caused some concerns as mutations found in the variants also affect the spike protein, which is currently the target of many leading vaccines deployed and developing.

This particular detail raised an important question: could it possibly reduce the effectiveness of vaccines?

Hancock states that there is currently no evidence suggesting that the new coronavirus variant is more dangerous, and that it is “highly unlikely” that the new mutation will affect the efficacy of vaccines.

Sanjana agreed.

“I think there’s not really much cause for concern, because it’s important to realize that these mRNAs [messenger RNA] Vaccines do not actually use a small piece of spike. They actually encode whole spike proteins in the form of RNA, and so it gives your immune system many shots at targets. There are several possibilities for this to develop a diverse antibody repertoire. So it is not really likely that any mutation in the virus is going to be able to affect antibody responses, ”he said.

It is too early to tell what are the possible effects of this special edition. Director of the Wellcome Trust Biomedical Research Foundation in London, Dr. Jeremy Farrar said in a statement on Monday that it could be “potentially serious” and that so much we do not yet know about COVID-19, surveillance and research should continue to persist with the virus. “There is no place for decency. We have to remain humble and be ready to adapt and respond to new and continuing challenges as we move forward in 2021. “

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