COVID-19, which is caused by SARS-CoV-2, has snatched countless lives over the past one year. The pandemic is still in headway from the beginning of 2020 to present. During this period, scientists also have formulated at least three vaccine types by the end of last year. When the vaccination programme is in developed and developing countries, there is another new crisis raised worldwide — the danger of a new variant.
The constant changes in the virus and the new variants are part of the life cycle a virus. Such new variants of seventh new coronavirus strain SaRS-CoV-2 have also been found in human and animal bodies. This changing process is called a mutation, and such modifications are regular. As the flu virus changes every year, we get the flu every year because of the newly mutated virus.
In the past year, the coronavirus has also strived to change itself by ratifying the body's immune system, medication, or vaccine attacks. Most of these variants have been slightly altered or barely modified in the structure or trait. Some of the variants are weaker than before, while others are more stringent.
This change has led to the spotting of three new variants of the Coronavirus in the human body since late last year. Three countries: England, South Africa, and Brazil, have seen three new types of variants. B.1.1.7 variant originated in England; South African variant is B.1.351 and the latest Brazilian variant B.1.1.28 found in the human body recently. Brazilian variant of SARS-CoV-2, is also known as P.1.
Two strains of SARS-CoV-2 virus have been found in Brazil so far. One in June, another in December last year. Scientists indicate that the new variant B.1.1.28 found in Manaus in the northern province of Amazonia in December last year is a severe type. This strain has been found in Japan and recently England also.
World Health Organisation officials, including the Health Authority of England, are more concerned about the new Brazilian variant because this variant spreads faster than the other two variants and can attack the body more severely. Why is this newfound Brazilian variant is more destructive than the other two?
When a new coronavirus penetrates the body, it attacks cells with a specific part. This part is called spike protein. The part with which the protein ambushes the cells is called receptor binding domain (RBD). Scientists have found that the spike protein of the Brazilian variant has three mutations: K417T, E484K, and N501Y. One of these mutations is in the RBD section.
The mutation happened in E484K, a spike protein in the RBD segment. Now scientists are concerned about this mutation of E484K proteins because they formulated antibodies of the vaccine was designed based on this protein. As a result, the virus can easily bypass the body's antibody or antibodies generated by the vaccine will work weakly to identify the virus.
Although it is not clear how much resistance the new variant will develop against the vaccine, it is apparent that the new variant spreads rapidly and impose the body at significant risk.
The writer is a physician in the United Kingdom.