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America ignores coronavirus mutants at its own risk – Mother Jones




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Around this time last year, we were still living a relatively normal life.Donald Trump had Survived his the first Impeachment, Bernie Sanders had Won the victory Justin Bieber released him in the New Hampshire primary The first album in almost 5 years. On the other hand, on the other side of the world, China Difficult to control The outbreak of the virus is ultimately called SARS-CoV-2. Most of us didn’t know how the coronavirus disrupted our lives.

Nearly 30 million cases and more than 485,000 deaths, Light is beginning to appear at the end of the tunnel. The vaccine is working! Cases are decreasing!!This progress is very exciting, with dozens of states Open backup or loosen restrictions For restaurants, gyms, salons, bowling alleys, and face-to-face school education. That’s great news. Not exactly. In fact, we are now in a very similar situation to just a year ago. And experts warn that it’s not time to give up.

At least three specified “Variant of concernHas advanced to the United States. B.1.1.7 was first identified in the United Kingdom (first identified in the United Kingdom). Rapid increase in cases), B.1.351 first identified in South Africa, and P.1 first identified by travelers from Brazil tested at Japanese airports. These variants seem to spread much easier from person to person. According to researchers, it’s about 50 percent more. Estimate For B.1.1.7 Probably more deadlyAlthough research is limited.

B.1.1.7 Already Seems to be spreading rapidly Nationwide, it shows no signs of outage. Scientists are looking to Denmark for a sneak preview of what’s next. As in the United States, cases of COVID are currently declining.But unlike the United States, the Danish authorities More than half Of the positive case of the country. As a result, they saidTwo fads“—One is driven by older variants and retreats, and the other is driven by B.1.1.7 to increase. (See graph.) Researchers said their model was”The tranquility before the storm.. “

Kai Kupferschmidt / Science

In other words, it’s a crisis waiting to happen. again.

To understand exactly what we are against in these new variants, I am a genomic epidemiologist, a quasi-research scientist at the Graduate School of Public Health, an evolutionary biologist, and I called Joseph Forber, a professor of the Faculty of Biology. John Swartsburg, an honorary clinical professor specializing in infectious diseases and vaccines at the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health.

In short, they told me that the variants were a real threat and made possible by the scale of this pandemic. World wide, Over 100 million people I am infected with a coronavirus. More cases mean more opportunities for the virus to evolve. Therefore, experts state that delaying spread by masking, social distance, and, if possible, vaccination, is the best option for these and future variants. Swartsburg said: “We are competing to save people’s lives, so we need to get people vaccinated as soon as possible, but we are also competing with the evolution of these viruses.”

There are a few things you need to know about the new variant.

Coronaviruses, like you and me, are not perfect.Copy that RNA while replicating Over and over again, it makes mistakes. These mistakes are called mutations and, in most cases, explain that Swartsburg does not help the virus. However, with many replications on millions of hosts, one of these “experiments” can be successful, giving the virus a competitive edge over its predecessor.

“It starts competing with standard stocks, and that’s a concern,” says Swartsburg — hence the name “a variant of concern”.

When SARS-CoV-2 mutates, researchers Tracking it, “family treeIt is like. As a result, they know that all three variants of concern appear to have evolved similar beneficial mutations. Independently, A process called “convergent evolution” or “parallel evolution”.

“Convergent evolution,” Otto explains. “It means they are finding a solution to the environmental problems they are facing and are converging on the same solution.” It’s like finding the same “secret sauce.”

So what exactly is that secret source? Scientists are uncertain, but believe that the increased infectivity of mutants is related to peplomers, a spike-like structure that covers the surface of the virus and infects cells. Each new variant independently developed several mutations, including mutations in the peplomer protein. These changes, the study suggestAllows the virus to attach to and invade cells “more efficiently than standard strains,” says Swartzberg. “When it enters our cells, it infects more of our cells and produces billions of offspring that can spread to others.” (Recently identified researchers Seven other variant strains in the United States It Share common mutations It affects peplomer proteins, but it is unclear if they are also more contagious than previous versions, and studies have not yet been peer-reviewed. )

As far as RNA viruses are concerned, SARS-CoV-2 mutates relatively slowly. These mutations occur randomly throughout the genome, but they also occur in predictable and “clock-like” ways, Fauver explains. “All types of viruses have their own mutation rates, or so-called molecular clocks.” However, variants are running earlier than expected. For example, B.1.1.7 generated about twice as many mutations as expected during the year. “I would like to say that there have been almost two years of mutations in the last year because they are circulating in humans,” says Otto.

How this happened remains a mystery. But scientists have one well-supported theory: B.1.1.7 comes from an individual who was unable to initiate a complete immune response against it. the study suggest If you are infected with COVID while taking a drug that suppresses the immune system (for example, a recipient of an organ transplant may refuse an organ transplant), the virus that replicates in the body, if any May look different from. It is replicated in individuals with a fully functional immune system. “They sequence the virus over time, and discover that it acquires more mutations than expected in a normal infectious event,” says Forber.

This may sound like an anomalous event, but it’s not that fast, Otto says. The variants occurred randomly, but by allowing the pandemic to go out of control, it provided many opportunities for the virus to evolve. It’s like playing the lottery. There is little chance of winning a Powerball with a single ticket. But if you buy a combination of hundreds of millions of numbers, your chances of winning are not very low. “The problem is that there are too many cases. The virus is more likely to cause this” acceleration “because so many individuals around the world are infected. “Otto says.

“Bad habits make you unlucky,” she says.

Again, I don’t fully understand why these new variants are stepping into other variants. “Because we have a disease that is 50 percent more common, we don’t even know what makes it possible,” says Otto. “Does that mean it stays in the air longer, or does it have an easier time to get into our body? Exactly what is bringing such benefits However, based on what is known so far, Swartzberg states that infection rates are likely to be related to the ability of the virus to attach to cells.

Even with the more contagious virus, all three experts agree and hope is not lost. “My answer is that instead of wearing a mask, keeping a social distance, and spending unmasked time indoors with people in your immediate home or outside the bubble, we know. To continue, “says Forber.

“If there are more contagious strains than the standard strains on the market today, my view is that everything we do to prevent infection needs to be doubled,” Swartsburg responded to Forber. I say. For example, Swartzberg says he is considering a little less frequent grocery shopping and combining trips to pharmacies. “You now need to raise your ante.”

Vaccination is also important. The sooner you are vaccinated, the less likely these variants will potentially spread and evolve. “How can the vaccine work longer?” Otto says. “We can reduce the number of cases and reduce the chances of evolution.” Data are limited, but so far it seems to be our vaccine. Effective against new variants,However Probably not the same Just like the previous version.

In the UK, Otto explains that cultivar COVID tests are designed to detect three segments in the virus’s genome, including identifying a person by looking at three fingerprints. However, at the end of last year, health officials began to notice that some people’s COVID tests detected only two sections. Over time, strange results have become more and more common. It turns out that a variant, now known as B.1.1.7, has mutated the exact segment that researchers were already looking for.

B.1.1.7 finally dominated the country. “As a result, they were able to find out that hundreds of thousands of individuals have been tested for COVID and whether they have or do not have variants. Has a lot of information about this variant. “

Britain is also pouring Tens of millions We carry out genome surveillance and provide what Forber calls the “gold standard” of our national sequencing strategy. As of late January, the countries were lining up around 200,000 coronavirus genome.. On the other hand, the United States is about five times as large as the United Kingdom, and about half the number of genomes is sequenced. The Wall Street Journal Report.. Efforts to track SARS-CoV-2 variants in the United States have also not been centralized and are being done on an “ad hoc” basis among academic institutions and the state health sector, Forber said.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, the UK has 6% of all cases.. United States 0.3% of casess.. As a result, Swartsburg states, “We don’t know what’s going on.”

Without a strong national surveillance program, Otto says he is not only failing to monitor current concerns, but is also ready to miss future surveillance programs. “Where do you miss? [future variants]?? In places like the United States, there are many cases and the rate of genome sequencing is very low. “

The success of the vaccine also depends on its ability to track the mutants of concern. Pharmaceutical companies like Moderna and Pfizer / BioNTech are already preparing to supply “booster shots” of vaccines to combat new variants. But if you don’t know how widespread variations of your concerns are in our country, these companies will operate in the dark, at least in part. “As we know, Swartzberg says: We are not going to get out of this pandemic by ignorance.”

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