A new strain has been identified in recent cases of Covid-19 in the UK which raises a cause of concern for many. The Covid-19 virus has gone through many mutations and this particular new strain of the virus is far more transmissible, authorities have said. The new strain was found in South England around September 20, 2020.
Although the new strain is discovered to be transmissible, there is still a lot to be uncovered as the mutation and the impact remains widely ‘unknown’. The new Covid 19 lineage is code-named B.1.1.7. The Clinical Virologist at the University of Leicester, Doctor Julian Tang said, “This is quite normal for viruses — like influenza — where different viruses may infect the same person, leading to a hybrid virus emerging. This is just one of the ways that natural viral variation arises.”
Even if the Coronavirus has potentially gone through numerous mutations, the new strain B.1.1.7 was recorded to have an abnormally high number of genetic changes, especially in the spike protein.
“One of the mutations in the new variant deletes six bases in the viral genome that encode amino acids 69 and 70 of the spike protein. By coincidence, this region is one of three genomic targets used by some PCR tests, and so, in those tests, that channel comes up negative on the new variant,” stated Dr. Jeffrey Barrett, Director of the SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, UK.
This spike protein is in charge of the virus’s interaction with the human cell. According to Professor Julian Hiscox, Chair in Infection and Global Health at the University of Liverpool had said that it is not unexpected or a new phenomenon that there are new variants of the virus emerging as it is seen in other human and animal coronaviruses.
The new strain originating in the UK has led to many countries stopping incoming flights from the UK. In India, the Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said in the 6th India International Science Festival or IISF 2020, “As of now, there is no need to get involved with these imaginary situations, imaginary panic. The Centre is alert and there is no need to panic about it…The government is fully conscious of everything. If you ask me, there is no reason to panic the way we are seeing in this press conference.” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also stressed that all flights should be banned from the UK because of the ‘super-spreader’.
Italy also detected a patient that was affected with the new strain and surprisingly enough the patient along with his partner had returned from the UK.
To discuss the new strain and its effects, the Health Ministry’s top advisory will meet today. Present in the meeting will be the experts from AIIMS, ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research), and a representative from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“The new strain of novel coronavirus emerging in the UK is a matter of great concern. GoI must take prompt action, prepare a contingency plan to contain the same, and also immediately ban all flights from the UK & other European countries,” tweeted Ashok Gehlot the Chief Minister of Rajasthan. He also said that the medical experts must be ready with treatment if there emerges any outbreak of the new strain of the virus. However, there is no need to panic as experts say that the new strain of the virus will not affect the vaccine’s efficiency.