BBC Health Editor
The coronavirus variant found in India has reached England. British public health experts say the virus is “disturbing”.
The world is also looking at the Indian variant and other new genetic strains that are easier to spread, make people more sick, or make vaccines ineffective.
Understanding the new options can help governments regulate vaccination programs and control the virus.
Why was Covid mutated?
All viruses exist and change and make copies to spread.
Most of these changes are small, and some can damage the virus. However, some changes can be more contagious and more dangerous, and these are the predominant species.
Even if people infected with the virus are vaccinated or vaccinated against the infection, mutated viruses that lack this protective shield continue to develop.
Scientists look at warning signs in the virus’s genetic code to determine how dangerous the mutation is. Laboratory studies look at how the virus reacts and how it spreads to humans.
What do we know about the different options?
There are thousands of different Covid variants in the world.
The ones that are considered the most potentially dangerous are called the ‘disturbing option’ and are closely monitored by health authorities. But the exciting options are:
- The English or Kent variant (also known as B.1.1.7) is common in the UK. More than 200,000 cases have been identified and spread to more than 50 countries, mutating again.
- The South African variant (B.1.351) has been found in at least 20 countries, including the United Kingdom.
- The Brazilian variant (P.1) is distributed in more than 10 countries, including the United Kingdom.
- A variant of the Indian variant (B.1.617.2) More than 500 incidents were found in England, some of which occurred as a result of travel to the country.
Are the new options more dangerous?
There is no evidence that the majority of those who carry these virus variants suffer from more serious illnesses than existing ones.
The virus, in its original form, continues to pose a major threat, especially to the elderly and people with other health problems.
However, a more contagious and dangerous virus will increase mortality rates among unvaccinated people.
Some studies show that the English variant increases the risk of death by 30%, but this is not conclusive evidence.
The health authorities’ recommendations for all options are the same: wash your hands, keep your distance, wear a face mask and pay attention to ventilation.
How do new variants mutate?
Britain, South Africa, Brazil and India have experienced changes in the spike proteins that bind the virus to human cells.
A mutation called N501Y, seen in some, has been shown to intensify the virus’s transmission and spread to other cells.
Some experts consider the England / Kent option to be 70% more contagious. A study conducted by the British Public Health Agency shows that this ratio is between 30-50%.
A mutation called E484K was also seen in the South African and Brazilian variants. This mutation can also help the virus become resistant to antibodies that develop immunity to infection.
Experts have identified this change in a small number of English variants.
Some potentially significant mutations have also been seen in the Indian variant (eg L452R), which may make it more contagious.
There is not enough evidence that the variants recently discovered in India – only those that are considered ‘disturbing’ – cause a more serious disease or make vaccines ineffective.
Do vaccines work against options?
Existing vaccines have been developed around early versions of the coronavirus, but scientists say the vaccines are still working against the virus, although they are potentially less cultivated.
According to a recent study, the Brazilian variant may be resistant to antibodies formed in people who have passed Covid and are thought to be immune.
However, early-stage laboratory results and real-life data suggest that the Pfizer vaccine, while slightly less effective, offers protection against new variants.
According to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine research group, the vaccine also protects against the British / Kent variant. Although less effective against the South African option, it still protects against serious and gross errors.
Preliminary findings suggest that the Moderna vaccine is effective against the South African variant, but that the active immune system may be somewhat weaker and shorter.
Experts say existing vaccines can be redesigned against new mutations.
Do you need options booster vaccines?
The British government has agreed with biopharmaceutical company CureVac to develop vaccines against future variants and has pre-ordered 50 million doses.
Depending on how the options develop, these doses can be used as booster vaccines towards the end of the year for the elderly or other groups at risk.