By Tony Winterburn • 15 December 2020 • 11:45
What Does The Discovery of a New Coronavirus Strain Actually Mean?- Do I Need to Worry?
There is a new strain of coronavirus and people want to know: Will the vaccine still work and is the mutation something to be worried about? Health secretary, Matt Hancock, stressed that it is not likely to become ‘Covid-20’ and said so far there is no evidence to suggest the new strain is more likely to cause a more serious disease.
Mutations are normal
There have actually been lots of mutations in the virus since it emerged in 2019, some 43 have so far been registered. This is to be expected – SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus and these viruses mutate and change. Public Health England (PHE) said that as of December 13, 1,108 cases with this new variant had been identified, predominantly in the south and east of England.
Not enough is yet known about the new strain, so it is premature to make any claims about the potential impacts of virus mutation. However, common sense says if the virus spreads faster it will be harder to control, but there have already been various strains of Covid-19 detected with no real consequence.
What the experts say.
Dr Lucy van Dorp, senior research fellow in microbial genomics at the UCL Genetics Institute, said, quote: “It is frustrating to have claims like this made without the associated evidence presented for scientific assessment and the variant remains to be officially announced. It seems COG-UK will release further details soon and a preprint may follow.
The possible candidates based on some of our own observations (current as of 30th November) is that this may refer to a double deletion in the coronavirus spike protein (positions 69/70) or alternatively a spike mutation in the receptor-binding domain N501Y3. There is some experimental support for N501Y increasing receptor binding experimental settings and mouse models. There have also been some reports that the spike double deletion has a moderate impact on antibody recognition.
At the same time, it is important to remember that all SARS-CoV-2 in circulation are extremely genetically similar to one another and our prior should be that most mutations have no significant impact on the transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2. However genomic monitoring is essential to allow us to stay one step ahead.”
So, there you have it, according to the experts there is no need to worry yet about the virus mutation that is being monitored closely. Besides, by April next year, when millions in the UK have been vaccinated, let’s hope there is something else to talk about!
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