In December 2020, new coronavirus strains were reported in the global news media. The U.K. and South Africa are the first two countries to report a more contagious coronavirus strain in late 2020. Seemingly, these strains are very different from the first detected. Since there are new, mutated strains exist now; it raises several further questions about the virus, its activity, and the effect of the vaccines on it. This post will discuss the newest coronavirus strains and everything that we know so far.
New Coronavirus Strains – An Overview:
Although there are speculations about one or more “super strains” in the U.S.A, it is still unclear if it is a more contagious variant than the virus strain that causes the COVID-19 disease. A lot of attention has been paid to two newly detected mutant strains of coronavirus. The P.1.1.7. strain, which first appeared in the United Kingdom, seems to be 70% more infectious and contagious than the strain the world’s been fighting since 2019. Similarly, the South African virus strain, named E484K, is another mutated strain detected in late 2020. At least one of the new “super strains” is already detected in seven states in the U.S. Both these virus strains are about 50 to 70% more contagious than the current virus widely circulating in the United States. However, it doesn’t seem to have fatal effects, as per expert reports.
Why Did the Coronavirus Change?
R.N.A. viruses often take a new form and mutate their gene-based on geographic separation trends. The new strains of coronavirus are also a result of gradual self-mutation to evolve and re-infect more living beings. The original COVID-19 was an L strain, whereas the newly reported coronavirus strains are G strains. This infographic shows how the virus has gradually mutated over time.
Image Source: Reuters
While all viruses mutate over time, airborne ones like flu change often. The mutation rate of coronavirus is still unknown.
The U.K. Variant:
The U.K. variant of SARS-CoV-2 has undergone a series of mutations over time. The virus was first detected in Southeast England and quickly become highly prevalent in cities like London and nearby suburbs. Based on the nature of this variant’s mutations, this viral strain may be rapidly transmissible than any previous versions of SARS-CoV-2. Due to the highly contagious nature of the new variant, it is potentially dangerous to infect more people. Although experts say that the variant may predominate and grow in a geographic area, there are no studies to support that claim. The U.K. variant has been detected in several states in the U.S.A. and many countries globally. Scientists are researching more on this strain to learn more about this new variant to understand if the authorized vaccines will protect people against it. C.D.C. and several other public health organizations are actively monitoring the situation very closely. Read more about C.D.C.’s views on the new viral strain.
Are There Any Other Mutations of SARS-CoV-2?
Apart from the distinctive U.K. variant, the new South African strain is another mutated variant that’s causing a stir. The mutated South African strain is seemingly more contagious and may pose a threat to antibody treatments. The South African strain, which scientists call an escaped mutation, may actually escape the antibodies produced by a plasma therapy and possibly, a vaccine.
Is The New Coronavirus More Dangerous?
Studies have claimed that SARS-CoV-2 mutates regularly, acquiring a new form in its genome every two weeks. A number of viral mutations are not prominent. However, a few of the mutations may significantly change the genome code, leading to an amino acid change impacting the way the virus’s infection style. There are about 23 viral genetic changes in this strain so far. However, the media reports alone cannot confirm that the variant is more infectious or dangerous than the existing coronavirus.
Does The New COVID-19 Strain Affect Children More Frequently Than Earlier Strains?
Since the appearance of the new U.K. strains, there is an increased number of cases in children. However, detailed reports on this revealed that children are being infected by both old and new virus strains, not just the new ones. There is no convincing scientific evidence to support the claim that the new variants have an unusual propensity to infect children in particular.
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