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According to scientists, the new coronavirus strains that are widespread in the UK have important mutations

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London (Reuters)-British scientists confirm whether the rapid spread of a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 in southern England is associated with the significant mutations they detected in the strain. They are trying, they said on Tuesday.

Mutations include changes to the key “peplomer” proteins that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus uses to infect human cells, a group of scientists tracking the genetics of the virus said. As mentioned, it is not yet clear whether these will make it more infectious.

Scientists from the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) consortium said in a statement, “Efforts are underway to see if any of these mutations contribute to the increase in infection.” Said.

A new variant, dubbed “VUI-202012 / 01” by British scientists, contains a genetic mutation in the “peplomer” protein, which in theory makes COVID-19 easier among people. It may spread.

The UK government quoted a new increase in infectious diseases on Monday as it moved the capital and many other regions to the top of the COVID-19 regulation. This may be partly related to the new variant.

The UK Public Health Service said in a statement that as of December 13, 1,108 COVID-19 cases with new variants had been identified, primarily in the southern and eastern parts of England.

However, there is currently no evidence that this mutant is likely to cause severe COVID-19 infection or that the vaccine is less effective.

“Both questions need to be further researched at a pace,” said COG-UK scientists.

Mutations or genetic alterations occur spontaneously in all viruses, including SARS-CoV-2. This is because these viruses replicate and circulate in human populations.

According to COG-UK genetics experts, in the case of SARS-CoV-2, these mutations accumulate at a rate of about 1-2 mutations per month worldwide.

“As a result of this ongoing process, thousands of mutations have already occurred in the SARS-CoV-2 genome since the virus emerged in 2019,” they said.

Most of the mutations seen so far have no apparent effect on the virus, and only a few are likely to modify the virus in a significant way. For example, it makes people more susceptible to infection and more likely to cause serious illness. Alternatively, they are less sensitive to natural or vaccine-induced immune defenses.

“It’s not unexpected that the virus will evolve, and it’s important to quickly discover changes to understand the potential risks,” said Susan Hopkins, medical adviser to PHE.

She said the new variant was “widely detected, especially when the number of cases detected is increasing.”

Report by Kate Keland; Edited by Philippa Fletcher

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