The news about a mutated strain of the coronavirus has been online over the last couple of months and the UK is currently battling its own which is also said to be identified in South Africa which is causing a surge in the COVID-19 infections in the country.
Because of this new events, many countries have closed their borders on South Africa the same way it was against Britain So what is the new variant by the way and will the newly developed COVID-19 vaccine be efficient enough in battling the new disease let’s find out on this post.
The new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 is dubbed 501.V2 and was discovered by a network of scientists in South Africa who have apparently being working on the genetic build-up of the original coronavirus.
The areas whereby the new variant was found includes the south and southeast regions of the country which has continued to dominate samples from collected data since October.
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First identified in Nelson Mandela Bay, along South Africa’s east coast, it spread rapidly to other districts in the Eastern Cape, and to the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal (KZN) provinces.
The scientists also believed that the variant is different from others which has been infecting South Africans due to multiple mutations that happened over the cause of infection from people to people in the country. The issues with the coronavirus however is that this isn’t the first time that the virus will mutate and scientists believes this is a normal phenomenon.
It has also been associated with a higher viral load, meaning a higher concentration of virus particles in patients’ bodies, possibly contributing to higher levels of transmission.
Between 80% and 90% of new cases in the country are carrying the mutant variant, according to health authorities.
So should you be concerned?
Maybe not because as mentioned earlier, viruses mutates and there are already hundreds of variations of the SARS-CoV-2 worldwide and South African scientists have made it known that there is no evidence whether the variant is associated with more severe disease or serious health crisis.
The notable thing is how easy it was to spread this new variant compared to the original coronavirus. “What has happened with the sheer number of infections growing very fast is that’s overwhelmed really fast the health care system,” said Professor Tulio de Oliveira, director of the KZN Research Innovation and Sequencing Platform (KRISP), who helped conduct genome sequencing on South Africa’s mutant variant. “And when that happens, we have a big spike of increased mortality.”
However the positivity rate was about 26% as at Dec. 23rd compared to the same period when the virus was starting to show signs of warning.
In the first wave of infections, which peaked during the winter months between June and July, the positivity rate reached as high as 27%. “The rate of spread is much faster than the first wave and we will surpass the peak of the first wave in the coming days,” health minister Zweli Mkhize said on Wednesday.
Similar to the UK’s variant?
There are some similarities between the UK and the South African variant as they both change in the spike protein which made them much more infectious but they are entirely the same as sequence analysis showed they originated separately according to reports from the WHO.
Dr Andrew Preston, reader in microbial pathogenesis at the University of Bath, said, “The ‘South African’ variant is distinct from the UK variant, but both contain an unusually high number of mutations compared to other SARS-CoV-2 lineages.” WILL COVID-19 VACCINES PROTECT AGAINST THIS VARIANT? South African authorities say it is too early to say whether the vaccines currently being deployed in Britain and the United States, or other COVID-19 shots in development, will protect against the new variant.
Vaccine developers including AstraZeneca, BioNTech and Moderna Inc said this week that they expect their shots to still work against the UK variant however scientists are yet to conclude about whether this would work 100% or not. Overall, there still seems to be a lot of work to be done in order to curb off this pandemic.