2019 ended with the news of spread of a new virus – COVID-19. And this lead to a worldwide pandemic.
Almost a year later, near the end of 2020, when we were waiting for vaccines for COVID-19, another news came in about a new mutation in COVID-19 in UK!!
The UK STRAIN OF COVID VIRUS.
But, this is not the first time this virus has mutated!! It has earlier mutated in various counties as well, so why is this strain of so much concern?
So, How is UK COVID VIRUS STRAIN different from CHINA COVID VIRUS STRAIN???
MUTATIONS in UK STRAIN of COVID compared to CHINA STRAIN of COVID
There is not a major change in the COVID virus.
It’s just the location of this change that has caused so major change in the functioning and action of this virus.
The virus contains hundreds and thousands of SURFACE SPIKE PROTEINS. These play an important role in how the virus interacts with the cell it comes in contact with. The changes in these spike proteins are important because this is the site which helps the virus attach to the human cells.
COVID virus enters the human lungs through the ACE-2 and TMPRSS-2 receptors present in the lung alveoli cells.
In the NEW STRAIN, there is change in one such SPIKE PROTEIN located in the 614 location of the gene.
The protein has changed from D(aspartic acid) to G(glycine)
Changing it from D-614 to G-614.
This new protein now binds more strongly to the ACE-2 receptor protein present on the inner surfaces of human lungs and hence has higher chances of entering your body.
The new strain has 2.4 times higher entering efficacy as compared to the older strain.
Effect of MUTATION in the UK STRAIN of COVID
This small change in the outer shell of virus has given it a fitness advantage over the older strain.
The CT (cycle threshold) value in the RT-PCR test co-relate with the viral load present in the person’s throat. Low CT value indicate there is more virus present in the person’s nose and mouth region.
It was found that in people infected with UK STRAIN of COVID, CT value was on lower side as compared to the people infected with older strain.
This finding was present not in 1 or 2 pateints, but was consistently present in patients across all age groups. Lower CT value indicates higher viral load.
More viral load is found to have a direct co-relation with more spreading of virus by the individual.
This indicates that the UK STRAIN of COVID strain has higher chances of sticking to your upper parts of respiratory tract. Also since your nose and mouth have more virus, you can spread more virus as compared to the older strain of covid.
This equates to-
The new UK STRAIN OF COVID virus spreads more than the the CHINA STRAIN of COVID.
Is the UK STRAIN OF COVID more dangerous than CHINA STRAIN OF COVID?
If we take into considerations the scientific reports conducted at micro level on this topic, a lot of dissimilarities can be seen!
Some say due to the changes in structure, it will kill more population, some say it will not affect the disease severity.
Some surveys conducted on a smaller population found that the new UK strain of covid does not affect the disease severity and death rates.
Well, the definitive answer to this question will take some time to be answered. Researches need to be done on a large scale and that will take some time.
In a survey done by Muthukrishnan Eaaswarkhanth and his team, it was found that there were more deaths in belgium, spain, italy, france, Switzerland and others. These were the regions where the new strain was found. This is significantly higher than the death rates in the region where earlier starin was found.
This does not mean the new strain causes more death rate
But will the new strain lead to more deaths?
We can look it in a different way –
More transmission means means more total people are infected. So even if the death rates remains same, it will lead to more deaths on paper!!!
So the correct answer to above question will take time to be answered.
Effect of these MUTATIONS on ANTI-BODIES AND IMMUNITY CELLS
The antibodies and immunity cells, present in the body recognize the virus by attaching to the Receptor Binding Proteins.
If there are changes anywhere in receptor binding locations then there are chances that the antibodies and the immunity cells might not recognizes the virus!
There are no changes in any part of receptor binding proteins.
Therefore, the immunity present against the older virus will be able to act on the newer UK STRAIN OF COVID as well!!
Effect of MUTATIONS on VACCINES
COVID VACCINES present in the market right now, trigger the same chain of events as in case of older strain of virus.
Hence, the immunity produced against the vaccines will act in te same way as described above!!
In a laboratory conducted experiment, Kober and his team found that th antibodies generated against the natural fomr of COVID-19 could neutralize the G614 variant of virus as well!
Another similar study was done by Jie Hu. It showed that convalescent serum taken from patients recovered from older COVID strain could neautralize the G614 strain of covid as well in 93% of cases. This number is definitely high and also provides good ideas about the practical aspect of this question. But how will this show up on a larger scale is yet to be studied!
This means that there are high chances vaccines will be effective against the UK STRAIN OF COVID as well!!
Yess, we say high chances, because science is field of unpredictability and it will take a more research studies and clinical data to see if this is true in practice wold as well!!
That’s it for this post!
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- Tracking Changes in SARS-CoV-2 Spike: Evidence that D614G Increases Infectivity of the COVID-19 Virus by Bette Korber and others. Published:July 02, 2020 DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.06.043
- Emergence of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant in the UK by Julian W TANG, Paul A Tambyah and David SC Hui. Published:December 28,2020 DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jinf.2020.12.024
- Impact of Circulating SARS-CoV-2 Mutant G614 on the COVID-19 Pandemic
- by Doryaneh Ahmadpour and others
- SARS-CoV-2 D614G variant exhibits efficient replication ex vivo and transmission in vivo by Yixuan J. Hou1 and others in Science 18 Dec 2020: Vol. 370, Issue 6523, pp. 1464-1468
- Making Sense of Mutation: What D614G Means for the COVID-19 Pandemic Remains Unclear by Nathan D. Grubaugh and William P. Hanage in Angela L. Rasmussen Published:July 02, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2020.06.040
- D614G mutation of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein enhances viral infectivity by Jie Hu and others doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.06.20.161323
- The D614G mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein reduces S1 shedding and increases infectivity by Lizhou Zhang and others bioRxiv, 2020
- Naturally mutated spike proteins of SARS-CoV-2 variants show differential levels of cell entry by Seiya Ozono nd others doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.06.15.151779
- Comparing viral load and clinical outcomes in Washington State across D614G substitution in spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 by Cassia Wagner and others
- SARS-CoV-2 viral spike G614 mutation exhibits higher case fatality rate by Manuel Becerra-Flores and others. Int J Clin Pract. 2020 Aug.
- Could the D614G substitution in the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein be associated with higher COVID-19 mortality? by Muthukrishnan Eaaswarkhanth, Ashraf Al Madhoun, and Fahd Al-Mulla
- SARS‐CoV‐2 viral spike G614 mutation exhibits higher case fatality rate by Manuel Becerra‐Flores Timothy Cardozo First published: 06 May 2020 https://doi.org/10.1111/ijcp.13525
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