UK’s new strain of coronavirus

India and several other countries have suspended their flights from United Kingdom due to the concerns about the new variant of COVID-19 that is spreading rapidly in the country.

What are the concerns?

A mutant of COVID-19 has been the reason of rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in East and South England. The new variety is being referred to as Variant Under Investigation (VUI).

About the Variant

The variant was identified by COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK). The COG-UK is a consortium that analyses genome sequencing data. It is the largest contributor to COVID-19 database GISAID.

The new variant is the result of multiple mutations in the spike protein of COVID-19. According to the preliminary analysis, the mutant is more transmissible than the previously circulating variant. The COG-UK had identified these mutations as “N501Y”. It is an areas of spike protein where the virus binds to the human cell.

Transmissibility and Severity

The new variant transmits more easily than the other strains. Also, it was emphasised in the UK that there is no evidence that the variant is more likely to cause mortality. The mutation in the spike protein might change how the virus interacts with the human cells. This is because, the COVID-19 enters the human body through these spike proteins.

The new variant can potentially ramp up the reproduction number of the virus by 0.93. However, scientists are still unable to come to a conclusion on the mechanism of the transmissibility of the virus. So far, four people have died out of thousand infected by the new variant.

Other Mutations

There are currently four thousand mutations in the spike protein of COVID-19. The D614G was earlier the dominant strain of COVID-19 as it spread very easily as compared to the other strains. Another popular strain originated among Spanish farmworkers called the 20A. The EU1 strain spread rapidly across Europe in summer.

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