Why scientists New strain of coronavirus What appeared in the UK in September seems to be spreading much faster than previous variants.
According to British scientists, the early conclusion was that the virus mutated to alter the so-called peplomer on the surface of the virus, increasing its ability to attach and invade human cells. Early analysis suggests that these changes allow the mutation known as N501Y to spread 70% faster than previous versions of the virus.
Neville Sanjana of the New York Genome Center says there is no evidence to suggest that the variant has spread to the United States.
The virus is constantly mutating, and the coronavirus has fewer mutations than other viruses, such as those that cause the flu. These accidental changes may or may not change the attributes of the virus.
Scientists have identified 23 genetic alterations in the new mutant, but the numbers are unusually high, some of which are related to alterations in the proteins produced by the virus.
Coronavirus and the world
The spike protein is located above the spikes depicted in the graphic representation of the virus, giving it a crown-like appearance from which the name coronavirus was derived. Peplomers contain amino acids that allow the body to dissolve cell coatings using an enzyme called furin, allowing the virus to enter.
Currently, three main questions are being investigated: new variants are more contagious, more likely to cause fatal or serious illness, and the body’s immune response, including those promoted by vaccines. Are you likely to beat?
As outlined by a UK scientific adviser on Saturday, the tentative answers to those questions are yes, no, and no.
Patrick Valence, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said on Saturday that three types of research on the virus’s genetic makeup, statistics, and laboratories gathered to show that the variant is much more susceptible to infection than before. Said that. stock.
He said the variant first occurred in either London, which was confirmed on September 21, or in nearby Kent County, which was discovered on September 20. By mid-November, 28% of cases in London were due to a new variant. In the week starting December 9, it accounted for 62% of the cases in the capital.
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“It’s becoming the dominant variant. It’s defeating everything else in terms of communication,” he said at a press conference on Saturday.
Preliminary description of the variant, Published online Scientists related to the UK’s efforts to track genetic variation of the virus suggest that a new strain may have emerged in people suffering from chronic infections, probably due to a weakened immune system. It was.
Valence said the conclusion that mutations are low-risk and unlikely to compromise the effectiveness of the vaccine is preliminary. He said there was a theoretical reason that new mutants might alter the immune response, but there was currently no evidence that this was the case.
“A practical assumption is that the vaccine response should be appropriate for this virus, but we need to remain vigilant about this,” he said.
“A single mutation generally does not change the performance of the vaccine,” said Dr. Sanjana of the New York Genome Center.
British officials said scientists said a similar mutation appeared independently in South Africa, but there was no evidence that the mutation existed abroad.
—Brianna Abbott and Jason Douglas contributed to this article.
Write to Stephen Fiddler [email protected]
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