The South Africa coronavirus variant is currently circulating in several places within the continent and places like England. India had also reported several cases of people flying down from the UK with the virus’s new variant. However, till now, reports suggest that they have been able to contain it.
Experts are currently looking into the possibilities of risk concerning this virus to contain it quickly. They are also weighing the differences in terms of symptoms and how fatal it is compared to the first variant. One of the essential aspects to consider is if vaccines will work on the new variant for the COVID-19.
South Africa coronavirus variant and its effects
Check out some of the must-know facts to be aware of the new virus variant and its effects:
Effects of the new virus variant
Every type of virus, including the one that has caused a pandemic in 2020, tends to mutate. Mutation of a virus refers to the evolving properties that lead to different reactions when infected with.
A mutation refers to genetic changes that viruses make to create new ‘versions’ of themselves to survive and spread. Most of the time, such mutations are inconsequential. However, some report becoming more harmful to humans. Others usually become more of a threat in terms of quick spreading.
Currently, there are more than thousands of different variants of pandemic viruses circulating. However, experts only focus on a small number. For example, the South Africa coronavirus variant is called 501.V2
What do experts suggest?
The new variant of the virus from South Africa carries the mutation referred to as E484K. The virus has different traits from the ones discovered in the UK. Scientists are currently working towards understanding the differences.
Both the UK and South Africa variants are referred to as ‘Kent’ variants and are more contagious. It is resulting in swift actions like tougher restrictions to control the virus spread.
Research suggests that the vaccine developed works fine with the current mutation of the UK virus. However, the vaccines given to people affected with the South African coronavirus variant might have little or no efficacy. Currently, experts need more time to be accurate about such results. Moreover, it is unlikely that the vaccines will not be effective on all the new variants.
Scientists have used the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer against a new mutated variant found in South Africa. The name of the variant is N501Y, and the test was done by using 20 blood samples.
How can coronavirus mutation affect us?
Initially, the vaccine seemed to work against the virus. But experts need more research on the same. The N501Y variant is not the only one that is going on in South Africa.
An expert in cell microbiology, Dr. Simon Clarke, spoke at the University of Reading. He said that the South African coronavirus variant has several mutations. It includes changes like spikes in protein, and the results are concerning.
A spike protein allows further harm in the bodies of human cells. Vaccines are also designed keeping such things in mind, so a mutation will definitely have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the vaccine.
A spike protein can cause an extensive alternative to change in the Kent variant. The fresh infections can be less susceptible to immune responses that the vaccine trigger.
Professor Francois Balloux from the University College London said that E484K mutation shows reduced antibody recognition. It allows the SARS-CoV-2 virus to bypass the immune protection offered by vaccination or prior infection. However, experts say that they can easily tweak the vaccines to suit the new variant within a few weeks/months if necessary.
Scientists need to understand the new variant
There are some questions that scientists need to have answers to. These will help them understand and tackle the changing situation of the virus even better:
Is the new variant more dangerous?
Currently, there is no evidence to prove that mutated coronaviruses are more serious. People still need to follow basic protocols like washing their hands, maintaining distance from people, using a face mask, and more.
How much has the virus spread?
The new coronavirus variant is dominating the Western and Eastern Cape provinces in South Africa. The virus spread in Japan, Norway, and Austria as well. It is the fastest spreading virus in the UK and has pushed the country to go into a strict lockdown. Two people from the UK traveled to South Africa, bringing the new variant there.
How is the UK handling their new coronavirus crisis?
The UK has imposed a ban on direct flights to and fro South Africa. They also have restricted flights within the country. Anyone who traveled to the UK recently and the ones who they have recently met have been asked to quarantine.
Scientists, medical experts, and public health authorities are studying more about the new COVID-19 variant. They will share their findings soon so that more people know how to beware.
The chief medical adviser about coronavirus to the Public Health England said they are carrying out their work on priority. Dr. Susan Hopkins also said that they understand the level of risk that the new variant might bring. However, there is no evidence to prove that the variant causes severity or cannot be protected against a vaccine.