The strain caused the third wave in Ukraine
The appearance of the "British" strain in Ukraine was first confirmed on March 4 after analyzing samples of patients from the Ivano-Frankivsk region, where there was a sharp outbreak of the epidemic. Further, cases were recorded already in Dnipro, Kyiv, Lviv, and Kharkiv. Now, according to the Ministry of Health, the "British" strain is already circulating throughout the country.
The virus that has now spread in Ukraine is a mutation from a previous mutation of the "British" strain, which was discovered in the UK in the fall of 2020. The Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics said on March 22 that it had sequenced (genetic analysis of coronavirus) 17 samples taken from patients from Ivano-Frankivsk and two from Kyiv.
The institute said that it was the combination of modified strains of the "Briton" that caused the current wave of the epidemic and is the explanation for the increasingly frequent detection of cases of re-infection of people. In addition, doctors record a more severe course of the coronavirus.
These data have already been registered in the international database GISAID. The NSDC and the WHO delegation were informed about the results of the study. WHO representatives agreed with the findings of IMBG regarding a new wave of morbidity, which is caused by a mutated strain of coronavirus.
Viruses are constantly mutating, including the Covid-19 coronavirus. While most of the mutations are harmless, a few strains have raised concerns, with strains from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil. Research shows they are more contagious.
The "British" strain is called SARS-CoV-2 VOC 202012/01, or B.1.1.7. The mutations affected the spike protein (S-protein), there was a change in spine-like processes (adhesive proteins). Due to the rearrangement of the chromosome, this virus lacks two amino acids. The spike protein allows the virus to enter human cells, and it is a key target of the immune response in fighting the virus during infection and in protecting against disease after vaccination with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
Scientists at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Genetics said that the Ukrainian strain differs from its predecessor, first discovered in the UK in the fall of 2020, by changes in the virus regions that are responsible for the rate of virus replication in the cell and the reactivity of the human immune system.
Health Minister Maksym Stepanov also explained the features of the new strain.
The virus is more aggressive and three times more infectious than the previous one.
Affects young people. Not only elderly people get to hospitals, but also 30-40-year-olds.
It is transmitted faster and causes a severe course of the disease. Because of this, the number of hospitalizations during the "third wave" has increased in Ukraine.
The asymptomatic course of the disease is practically not recorded.
In addition to the respiratory system, the virus began to infect the mucous membranes, kidneys, liver, and even the central nervous system.
Two-thirds of people who have recovered from the disease need additional rehabilitation from postcovid syndrome within 3-6 months.
"There are non-isolated cases when patients with the British strain died from a physical lack of the need to breathe, although they were simultaneously in absolute consciousness. We also receive this data from our Western colleagues, with whom we maintain constant contact in order to provide more qualified assistance," Stepanov emphasized.
There is some reason to believe that this strain is more deadly, but there is still no sufficient scientific basis to confirm this.
Among the reasons for the spread of the strain in Ukraine, Stepanov named neglect of the precautionary rules regarding quarantine restrictions. They say that people do not wear masks, neglect antiseptics, do not stay at home.
Symptoms of the new strain are slightly different from the original version in Wuhan, the UK Department of Health said.
The new strain has the following symptoms:
- extreme tiredness;
- sore throat and muscles;
- loss of smell and taste is less pronounced than in the "Wuhan" variant;
- diarrhea and vomiting.
New strain all over the world
According to the WHO, as of March 16, the "British strain" was registered in 118 countries.
In the United States, scientists estimate that the number of infections caused by a new strain doubles every 10 days. Insufficient surveillance in most countries, including the United States, has overshadowed the recognition of variants circulating in many places.
Scientists are concerned about the possibility of new mutations being resistant to vaccines. Currently, clinical studies have not yet directly compared different types of vaccines and their ability to protect against new strains. Only pharmaceutical companies claim that vaccines are effective against the "British" strain.
At the same time, The Washington Post cites data stating that drugs from Novavax Inc. and Johnson & Johnson performed less efficiently in South Africa compared to other countries. PAR also announced plans in early February to end the vaccination campaign with AstraZeneca because it did not protect recipients from mild forms of coronavirus.