Wondering what the new coronavirus strain is all about? A doctor explains

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Just when the world was starting to assume that with a vaccine in sight, the pandemic state of affairs might come beneath management, a newly recognized strain of the virus left international locations puzzled as soon as once more. The UK authorities just lately introduced they’ve discovered a “highly contagious new variant of the virus” circulating in England. And citing the fast unfold in London and surrounding areas, Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed the nation’s most stringent lockdown.

And whereas this info might have brought about some panic in individuals, Dr Rahul Pandit, Director-Critical Care, Fortis Hospitals Mumbai, and member of Maharashtra’s COVID-19 job drive, explains that like all viruses, coronavirus, too, is a shapeshifter. “Some genetic changes are inconsequential. “Researchers have recorded thousands of tiny modifications in the genetic material of the coronavirus, as it has hopscotched across the world. The British variant has affected how the virus locks onto human cells and infects them. These mutations may allow the variant to replicate and transmit more efficiently,” he says.

But, questions stay: does India want to fret? Will the vaccines work? How will we go about being extra cautious, and if we’ve got to cease its unfold, what must be finished?

What is the new strain?

“The variant has been named ‘VUI – 202012/01’ (the first Variant Under Investigation in December 2020). It is not uncommon for viruses to undergo mutations; seasonal influenza mutates every year. Variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been observed in other countries, such as Spain. This variant includes a mutation in the ‘spike’ protein. According to researchers, this virus has at least 17 changes of mutation. Changes in this part of the spike protein may result in the virus becoming more infectious and spreading more easily between people,” explains Dr Pandit.

How dangerous is it?

“While most mutations are either harmful to the virus or have no effect, a few mutations in this new variant looked as if they could potentially affect how the coronavirus spread. According to reports, the new variant of the SARS-COV-2 could be up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the old variant. What’s more worrying is that this strain is affecting people in the age group of 30-60 years which is fairly young. Preliminary data from the UK shows the virus is spreading quickly in parts of southern England, displacing other variants that have been circulating for months. But there are still several unanswered questions: does it make people sicker? Does it mean prolonged treatments? Will vaccines that are underway work?”

Has it arrived in India?

The doctor says the new strain has to date not been present in India, at the very least so far as anybody is aware of. The variant, nonetheless, has already unfold globally. “Apart from the UK, the variant has been detected in Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and Australia, according to the WHO. A similar but separate variant has also been identified in South Africa. Now that the world knows to look for the variant, it may turn up in more countries.”

Will vaccines work?

Dr Pandit says that vaccines goal a number of components of the protein itself. “We don’t need to be worried about them. We should be doing more of genetic surveillance. In fact, I feel people should vaccinate themselves. While there is a section of people encouraging others to not take the vaccine shots, I urge people to not be overwhelmed by this. The lobby, as it raises doubt about the vaccine, will only make the vaccine developers more GMP compliant and will ensure that we get efficacious vaccines.”

What further precautions to take?

“The best way to curb the infection is to stick to the rules – wash our hands, wear a face mask and maintain social distancing. The recommended control measures to limit the spread of the new variant continue to be tested, following the existing guideline of isolation, and abiding by the restrictions,” the doctor concludes.

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