A novel coronavirus variant known as B.1.1.7 has caused an uproar in the world.
According to a report in the journal Science, the mutated virus is about 70 per cent more transmissible than the original strain, and more than 60 per cent of recent COVID-19 infections in London have been caused by the mutated virus.
△ Science magazine screenshots
What do we know about B.1.1.7 Novel Coronavirus varieties?
Major media outlets have been writing articles to interpret the information released by scientists.
Is it a new supervirus?
No, this is just one of the many variants that are coming with novel Coronavirus spreading worldwide.
When researchers looked at the genome of the mutant B.1.1.7 virus, which mutates when it replicates, they were struck by the large number of mutations that have already appeared at 17 sites, according to Science.
Screenshot: B.1.1.7 The mutated virus showed 17 mutations.
△B.1.1.7 Variation novel Coronavirus schematic drawing (image: New York Times)
Is it more contagious than other viruses?
According to the BBC, the b.1.1.7 mutation was first identified in September, and by November it had been linked to about a quarter of COVID-19 infections in London, up from nearly two-thirds in mid-December.
△BBC news screenshots
Niall Ferguson, an epidemiologist at Imperial College London, estimated that the variant spread 50 to 70 percent more often than other variants in the UK.
Novel Coronavirus is usually a relatively small virus infection for a child, but the b.1.1.7 mutation may make children as susceptible as adults, says Wendy Barclay, virologist at Imperial College London.
To determine whether the b.1.1.7 variant is more infectious, researchers are closely watching how it infects cells.
Micky Cevic, an infectious disease specialist at St Andrews University School of Medicine, said on Twitter: “Social distancing, wearing a mask and washing your hands are all known to be effective against the mutating virus.”
Does it lead to more serious diseases?
The New York Times said there was not enough evidence to suggest that the b.1.1.7 mutation caused more severe disease, but scientists said the possibility had not been ruled out.
In South Africa, another pedigree novel Coronavirus showed a special mutation also present in the B.1.1.7 mutation virus.
The mutated virus found in South Africa is spreading rapidly along the coast, and doctors have found that people infected with the virus have higher levels of the virus, which also causes more severe symptoms.
John Nkangasone, director of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said there is evidence that the mutant strain of the virus found in South Africa may be causing serious illness in young people and other healthy age groups, “which is worrying, but we do need more data to be sure.”
Where did the unusual variation come from?
This is a hotly debated question, and one possibility is that the b.1.1.7 mutated virus has acquired a series of new mutations in a particular host.
Other scientists have suggested that the virus may have acquired new mutations through animal populations, such as minks, and that “animal hosts” have become a focus of concern as more and more animal infections are discovered.
Will the mutated virus render the vaccine ineffective?
Most experts do not believe the mutated virus will have a significant impact on the vaccine, although this possibility cannot be ruled out.
The current variant is unlikely to affect the efficacy of the vaccine, but at some point a strain of the virus could render it ineffective, said Monsef Slouy, the NATIONAL adviser on vaccine science.
‘The probability of this happening is very low, but we have to be vigilant,’ he said.
But virologist Christian Anderson suggests that if the b.1.1.7 variant evolved to evade the immune system of immunocompromised patients, the adaptation might help it evade a vaccine that won’t fail, but may no longer be as effective.
“We don’t know yet, but we’ll know soon.”
“Dr. Anderson said.
In which countries is the mutated virus present?
According to Science, the b.1.1.7 mutation may already have spread widely around the world.
The Dutch health minister said researchers had found the mutated strain in a sample taken from a Dutch patient in early December and would find out how the patient was infected and if there were any related cases.
Nextstrain, which has been monitoring the genetic code of virus samples around the world, said the variant has also emerged in Denmark and Australia, with all cases originating in the UK.
In a statement, the CENTERS for Disease Control and Prevention said it is highly likely that the b.1.1.7 mutation has spread widely in the United States because of frequent travel between the two countries.
In addition, Portugal, Norway, Jordan, Japan, Korea and many other countries announced confirmed cases of novel coronavirus infection in their own countries.