Just as the ruckus around the new strain of coronavirus detected in the UK subsided, new Covid-19 mutation was announced in Denmark, Brazil, Malaysia, and some other countries.
We will try to figure out how the “updated” versions of the virus differ from each other, how dangerous they are, and whether the rapid mutation of Covid-19 can threaten the effectiveness of vaccines already developed and launched into mass production.
Mutant virus from the UK. Name - VUI-202012/01
The World Health Organization announced the detection of a new strain of the Covid-19 virus in the UK December 20.
It is assumed that it may be 70% more infectious than the already familiar "version" of the coronavirus.
The day before, the WHO confirmed that the mutant virus is spreading faster than the usual variant. Whether it is more deadly is still unknown.
Representatives of the Organization did not rule out that the Covid-19 mutation could trigger a third wave of the pandemic.
"This new strain is likely to cause the third wave of the pandemic in Europe," said WHO expert and President of the International Federation of Tropical Medicine, Professor Santiago Mas Coma.
In his opinion, it is too late to try to stop the spread of the mutated virus, which, according to the latest data, is already circulating in more than 40 countries around the world.
In particular, the "British" strain was recorded in Germany, Switzerland, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Australia, India, Canada, Russia, etc.
As for Ukraine, no officially confirmed cases of infection with the mutated virus in the country have yet been recorded.
Earlier, infectious disease specialist Viktor Petrov said that one of his patients, who regularly travels to the Czech Republic to work, had been ill with the new strain.
"Ukraine does not have the ability to identify this Covid-19 strain in the process of mass testing. But people who have insurance in EU countries can identify an already mutated coronavirus. And thus, I was able to confirm that there are already cases of infection with a new strain of Covid-19," said the infectious disease specialist.
Chief sanitary doctor Viktor Lyashko announced that Ukraine on January 19-21 will send the first samples taken in the country to identify the "British" strain to the WHO laboratories at the Charite clinic in Berlin.
Mutant virus from South Africa. Name - 501.V2
On December 22, another Covid-19 strain was recorded in the UK - two people who were in contact with those traveling to South Africa got infected.
A few days earlier, on December 18, South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on his Twitter announced the detection of a new type of SARS-CoV-2 Virus in the country. It was termed 501.V2.
We have convened this public briefing today to announce that a variant of the SARS-COV-2 Virus- currently termed 501.V2 Variant has been identified by our genomics scientists here in South Africa.#SARSCOV2MediaBriefing— Dr Zweli Mkhize (@DrZweliMkhize) December 18, 2020
According to Mkhize, the mutated coronavirus has started to prevail in the past two months. Scientists associate the second wave of the epidemic in the country with this version of virus.
According to BBC agency, this variant shares some similarities to the one that has already been detected in the UK, although they have evolved separately.
Both have a mutation - called N501Y - which is in a crucial part of the virus that it uses to infect the body's cells.
Therefore, at the moment the ability of the new type of Covid-19 from South Africa to spread rapidly is considered its "peculiarity", that is, it (like the one in UK) can also be more infectious.
Also, based on the words of Zweli Mkhize, with the emergence of N501Y, more young patients get hospitalized in critical condition due to coronavirus.
"Larger proportion of younger patients with no co-morbidities presenting with critical illness," he wrote.
Mutant virus from Denmark. Name - N439K
Denmark's Statens Serum Institute on Tuesday, December 22, announced the identification of a coronavirus mutation, which may be less sensitive to the vaccine.
"There is concern about how effective a vaccine will be against N439K. Therefore, it is relevant to keep an eye on how widespread the infection with this variant is in Denmark, and whether it has spread to particularly vulnerable groups," says department head Tyra Grove Krause in a comment.
From 8 August to 6 December, the mutation was found in 1624 Danish samples.
Scientists say that about 10% of all those tested in the country for infection with a confirmed diagnosis are carriers of the new variant of the virus.
"In terms of gender and age, N439K is spread in general in the same way as SARS-CoV-2 in Denmark. The hospitalization rate is lower than in the case of SARS-CoV-2," the institute said.
The variant has nothing to do with the mink variants that have been found, or the British one that is mentioned these days, it was stated.
The BBC notes that the British and South African variants of Covid-19 have some similarities, but they have developed separately. They have in common a mutation called N501Y, which is located in an important part of the virus, which it uses to infect cells in the body.
Therefore, the "feature" of the new type of Covid-19 from South Africa is currently considered to be the ability to spread rapidly. Also, based on the words of Zveli Mkhize, with the advent of N501Y, more young patients began to get into the country's hospitals in critical condition due to coronavirus.
"Young, previously healthy people are now seriously ill," the minister stated.
Due to the deteriorating situation with the incidence on the night of December 29, tightened quarantine norms began to operate in the country.
The South African variant of the coronavirus has already been identified in several countries around the world. So, on December 29, the Australian health authorities said that a tourist who arrived in Queensland on December 22 was infected with N501Y, ABC News reports.
In Canada, this strain was detected on January 9 in a man who returned from a trip, and in France, a man who had visited South Africa the day before was infected with it.
The American pharmaceutical company Pfizer has already conducted research on the effectiveness of its vaccine against the British and South African variants of Covid-19.
These strains are known to have a slight change in the location of the spike protein covering the virus. It is this that is believed to contribute to the faster spread of Covid-19.
At the same time most of the drugs produced around the world train the body to recognize this protein and fight it. This means that the vaccine can be effective against these strains.
Mutant virus from Brazil. Name – B.1.1.28
On December 23, the Brazilian Globo TV channel, citing a study by the National Laboratory of Scientific Computation, announced the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus in the state of Rio de Janeiro.
Scientists say they currently have no confirmation that the new strain is more infectious or aggressive.
In the course of research on the new version of Covid-19, it turned out only that it differs from the "maternal" virus by mutations in 38 out of 180 genomes and, similarly to the "British" type, has a mutation E484K in the S-protein.
It was also determined that this type of pathogen appeared in July in Rio de Janeiro, after which its traces were found in 19 different cities of the state.
Mutant virus from Malaysia. Name – A701V
The country's Minister of Health, Noor Hisham Abdullah, on Wednesday, December 23, announced the detection of a new strain of coronavirus in the country, named A701V. The latter was discovered as a result of examining samples from the state of Sabah.
"But we have yet to know the clinical impact of this variant, its infectivity rate or aggressiveness," Dr Noor Hisham was cited as saying on New Straits Times.
He said the Health Ministry would continue to monitor the virus mutation and its impact in gauging the Covid-19 vaccine's effectiveness.
Mutant virus from Nigeria. Name - P681H
Another new variant of the coronavirus have emerged in Nigeria, Africa’s top public health official announced that, as Blick reports.
John Nkengasong, head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, revealed the existence of the new P681H strain.
He believes that it is different to the strains recently discovered in the UK and South Africa.
Medics do not currently think the new strain in Nigeria is more infectious than previous strains, but Dr Nkengasong admitted it was too early to be sure.
"Give us some time ... it's still very early," he said.
The alert about the apparent new variant was based on two or three genetic sequences, he said, but that and South Africa's alert late last week were enough to prompt an emergency meeting of the Africa CDC.
Mutant virus identified in Japan
On January 10, the country's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said that a new Covid-19 strain, different from the British and South African ones, had been identified in four tourists flying from Brazil.
All of the infected traveled to the state of Amazonas, in northwestern Brazil. They were tested immediately upon arrival at Haneda airport.
Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases says there is no evidence yet that the new strain is more infectious or causes a more severe form of the disease.
WHO advises to share data
In response to news from the UK about a new strain of coronavirus, the World Health Organization said they fear new Covid-19 mutations.
According to WHO/Europe website, All viruses, including the virus that causes COVID-19, change as they circulate. These changes can lead to changes in characteristics of the virus. This is why WHO monitors changes closely, and why everyone must continue to take all actions to slow and eventually stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
"WHO advises all countries to increase the sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 viruses where possible, share sequence data internationally, and report if the same mutations of concern are found," the message says.
The department's experts did not rule out that the "British" strain is just the first sign. In their opinion, further circulation of the virus is likely to "lead over time to the emergence of numerous new mutations."
"That is why experts call for timely detection of any new variants of the virus and, in particular, to increase the sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 viruses, exchange data on their sequences at the international level and report cases of mutation detection," the message says.
WHO Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus, at a briefing on December 28, called the mutations of the coronavirus a challenge the world will face in 2021.
According to the director of the WHO European Office, Hans Kluge, it is difficult to forecast the development of the situation with Covid-19, since it is very unpredictable.