One year down the line since the COVID-19 outbreak, it is known that there is not just one strain of SARS-CoV-2 but many strains have been identified with multiple mutations. Health researchers and scientists have been tracking these strains and now identified that the lastest strain emerging from South Africa can be a cause of worry. Recently, three new variants of Coronavirus were identified by the scientists including one from the UK, one from Brazil and one from South Africa. The World Health Organisation noted that these variants are one of the most contagious variants of the novel Coronavirus. There have been several questions on the strains leaving the vaccination rendered or lower the efficiency of antibody protection. Considering the strains spread rapidly when compared to the ones that were transmitted in the beginning of this pandemic.
A report by The IE noted that the South African variant, also known as 20H/501Y.V2 or B.1.351, is not similar to the one identified in Britain and seems to be more infectious. The variant raising potential concerns was first reported on December 22, 2020 and has now spread its wings over 40 countries including the US. The viral strain, according to the report, has emerged independently of the UK variant (also known as B.1.1.7). To be sure, the variant has a mutation of N501Y, which is one of the primary reasons for that could lead to the virus being more contagious or easy to spread. WHO has also warned this variant to be less susceptible to “antibody neutralisation,” further leading to creating more consciousness regarding this viral strain.
Researchers in South Africa believe this strain to be more contagious, around 50 per cent more when compared to the ones that were identified earlier. However, in order to completely under the behaviour of this new COVID-19 strain, WHO has called in for more studies regarding this. So far, the observational studies done in South Africa have not indicated an increase in risk of reinfection.
The South African variant, for some scientists, has been a major cause of worry given the unusually large number of mutations that has taken in the spike protein of the virus. To be sure, it is the spike protein only that allows the virus to enter the cells of the human body. In the antibody treatments and vaccine administration, it is this spike protein that has been targeted, the report highlighted.
Both UK and South African variants have mutation at their spike protein but they are different. Another mutation has been recorded within the South African variant- E484K. This particular mutation is not there in the UK strain. This particular mutation is said to prevent virus from being attacked by a person’s immune system and it is likely that effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines can also be hampered for this mutated strain.
However, no evidence has been found that could direct that the COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved will not work against the new strain. The report noted that results from human clinical trials done in South Africa have, however, suggested some decline in efficiency of these vaccines.