Although many variants of the coronavirus are widespread worldwide, health professionals are primarily interested in the emergence of the first three variants detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. They appear to spread more easily, and research is underway to determine if they cause more serious illness.
The virus infects humans and can mutate when making a copy of itself. Some mutations are harmful to the virus and can kill the virus. Others can offer benefits and help it spread.
“Not all mutations are made the same,” said Mary Petrone, who studies infectious diseases at Yale University. “The virus is lucky many times.”
Monitoring variants is important because it can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and treatments and change the way people are infected.
Early mutations in the pandemic fueled the spread of the virus around the world, but haven’t changed significantly since then — until recently, said Ohio State University biologist Daniel Jones.
One of the three major variants that experts are paying attention to was discovered in the UK at the end of last year and has been detected in dozens of countries since then. Health officials initially said it was unlikely to cause a worse illness, but some new information suggests it could be-it remains unknown at this time. It seems to spread more easily, and it can lead to more hospitalizations and deaths.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this variant could dominate the United States by March.
According to experts, other variants first detected in South Africa and Brazil also appear to be more contagious.
While previous data suggest that current vaccines need to be protected from these mutants, there are concerns that their effectiveness may be slightly reduced. There is some evidence that some antibody treatments may be less effective against certain mutants.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top expert in infectious diseases in the United States, says there are several ways to adjust vaccines and treatments to maintain their effectiveness.
The emergence of variants is associated with an ongoing surge, as infection gives the virus a chance to mutate and spread. That’s another reason why professionals emphasize the importance of wearing masks and social distance.
“The fewer people who carry the virus, the less likely it is to mutate,” Jones said.
This is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mentions the three variants of greatest concern.
- In the United Kingdom (UK), a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 (known as 20I / 501Y.V1, VOC 202012/01, or B.1.1.7) has emerged with numerous mutations. Since then, this variant has been detected in many countries around the world, including the United States (US). In January 2021, British scientists reported evidence This suggests that the B.1.1.7 variant may be associated with an increased risk of death compared to other variants. Further research is needed to confirm this finding. This variant was reported in the United States at the end of December 2020.
- In South Africa, another variant of SARS-CoV-2 (known as 20H / 501Y.V2 or B.1.351) emerged independently of B.1.1.7. This variant shares some mutations with B.1.1.7. Cases resulting from this variant have been detected in several countries other than South Africa. This variant was reported in the United States at the end of January 2021.
- In Brazil, a variant of SARS-CoV-2 (known as P.1) has emerged. It was first identified by four travelers from Brazil tested during a regular screening at Haneda Airport, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan. This mutant has 17 unique mutations, including three in the receptor-binding domain of peplomer. This variant was detected in the United States at the end of January 2021.
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