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New Covid-19 Strain Found in the UK

As the world fights against the Covid -19 pandemic, making progress at every step of the way with dropping number of fresh cases and upcoming vaccines, the virus has made its next move. Recently, a new strain of the SARS-COV-2 virus has been detected in the UK. This is a mutated strain of the original virus with certain advanced attributes to its name. But it is worth knowing that this is not the first time that mutations in the Coronavirus have been reported. The previous mutation was reported in Malaysia and it seems that unfortunately it has already spread all over the world. According to various health experts viruses can mutate upto few times a month and as they mutate sometimes a very rare situation arises in which the genetic code of the virus changes enough for it to improve and become more powerful.

This new variant of the virus is deemed to be the reason behind the rapid increase in fresh cases in South and East England. It is being referred to as VUI(Variant Under Investigation) 202012/01 or the B.1.1.7 lineage by the authorities. The new strain has also been called as N5017 because it incorporates a mutation of this name in its spike protein. This allows the virus to latch on to human cells and penetrate them. The variant was identified in genomic surveillance by COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK), a consortium that analyses genome sequencing data from the united kingdom . COG-UK is that the largest contributor to the worldwide Covid-19 database GISAID. Preliminary analysis suggests that it's more transmissible than previously circulating variants. According to experts, it appears to be between 40 per cent and 70 per cent more transmissible.” Information about the transmissibility is, of course, worrisome, given how the coronavirus spread so rapidly all across the planet . While high transmissibility may be a cause of concern, experts suggest that there is no indication at the moment that this new strain causes a higher mortality rate. According to experts, the new strain of the coronavirus isn't likely to affect vaccines and coverings .

However, experts are urgently looking into it to know the changes. Previously, when a mutated strain was reported in Malaysia, it had been found that the majority people round the world were infected thereupon strain, and thus , it had been unlikely to affect vaccine development. UK’s Health Minister Matt Hancock has said the new strain is 70 per cent more infectious. However, that figure is not based on lab-based evidence but rather modelling, which is a “dodgy” method. Current data shows that one of the mutations on the spike protein of the virus, called N501Y, will help it attach more easily to human cells. Data also shows that another mutation may be a H69/V70 deletion, where two amino acids within the spike protein are deleted, but this mutation has taken place within the virus several times before.

It is ironical to note that UK the country where this new variant that is allegedly has higher transmission rate is also the first country in the world to initiatevaccine deployment after approving the Pfizer Biontech vaccine. Sources have said that this new variant of the virus is limited to the UK for the time being and has not been detected anywhere across the globe. In an effort to maintain this many countries around the globe including India have banned all flights to and from UK till 31 December. The detection of this new strain of the virus has also the hit the world economy as the share market around the world took a hit and investors around the world lost money. The UK PM Boris Johnson in a statement said that they will not be able to continue with Christmas as planned because of this new strain and that people will have to cancel Christmas plans and the government has implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in the world.

Is this new strain just another small development or the start of something big and the indication that the virus is returning for a round 2 in 2021? We may only guess. But the one thing we all do know is that we all need to hold on to hope and keep doing

our best at every turn to defeat this virus and strive to survive. Because there is nothing more genetically rooted in humans than the will to survive.

~ Shaurya Mahajan


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